The articles I selected from school library professional journals had a common theme of how school librarians can incorporate an effective information literacy curriculum into their schools. Unlike public librarians, school librarians are also teachers and share the responsibility of educating students so that students graduate with certain knowledge and skills. The first article I read, Common Core Standards: Opportunities for Teacher Librarians to Move to the Center of Teaching and Learning, by David Loertscher and Betty Marcoux, addressed the new roles of school librarians within Common Core Standard (CCS) curricula. Loertscher and Marcoux assert that librarians have an increased responsibility to participate in the teaching and learning process to help students meet the CCS requirements in areas of information literacy that are incorporated into various core subject area curricula. I found the authors’ perspective a bit outdated, as they presented the school librarian’s responsibility in teaching and learning as a big change from their current focus on encouraging students to love reading fiction. I do not doubt that there are many school librarians who see their main role as teaching students to love reading good literature, but my experience has been that school librarians—especially at the secondary level—are at least as much involved in teaching students to use technology and non-fiction resources. In fact, I have seen far more focus on information literacy, library skills, and the research process in school libraries over the past ten or fifteen years than I have seen focus on fiction reading for pleasure. Interestingly, this article comes from Teacher Librarian, a journal that expects school librarians to embody active teaching roles, even though it seems to have been written for an audience for which teaching is a big change.
Loertscher and Marcoux addressed the need for technology to be used as a tool for learning, not as an add-on for presentation purposes and nothing else. They emphasized the importance of balancing the teaching of content and the teaching of skills, which is highly relevant to the topic of information literacy. Since CCS demands both high-level content knowledge and complex thinking, researching, communicating, and problem-solving skills, school librarians can help teachers bring both of these goals into fruition by imbedding information literacy into into content learning so that students develop information literacy while learning about content relevant to the core curriculum.
I do not know a whole lot about Common Core except that Michigan teachers and school librarians are apprehensive about all the work it is going to take to change their curriculum and lesson plans for next year. This article portrayed CCS as a curriculum with a vital role for school librarians, so I am hopeful that it will prove to be beneficial to the school library profession and will represent a major refocus and prioritization of complex thinking and information literacy.
Another article, “Measuring School Community Engagement in the Implementation of an Information Literacy Curriculum,” by Candace Aiani, addressed the question of school-level commitment to information literacy. Aiani developed a survey to be taken by faculty in K-12 schools to assess the degree to which the school, as a whole, supported and upheld information literacy in the curriculum. She maintains that the school librarian should be the hub of the information literacy curriculum, but that s/he will not be successful unless information literacy is embraced and upheld by teachers and administrators as well. Questions on the survey included rating on a scale of one to seven whether one felt there was “adequate accountability for teaching information literacy education” and how frequently or recently one has “requested, initiated, or had a meeting with a teacher or teaching colleague for the purpose of communicating, cooperating, or collaborating on information literacy instruction.” The survey results are to be used as a diagnostic report for a school’s commitment to information literacy in order to determine what obstacles are preventing the achievement of school-wide commitment to information literacy in order to address these “barriers” (52). This is in contrast to assessment surveys given to students as a way of measuring their information literacy skills because students may misrepresent or overestimate their search-and-retrieval, technology, and information literacy skills (see Owen, 2010). Instead, this survey has teachers, librarians, and administrators report on actual practices, etc. The problem remains, however, that information literacy is not defined, so each survey taker may interpret the term “information literacy” differently, resulting in less-than-actionable responses.
I found this article important because it acknowledges that information literacy does not just belong in the library or belong to the school librarian. For students to learn to become information literate, information literacy needs to be embedded in the curriculum, valued and upheld by classroom teachers, and made a priority in the school. If the school librarian is the only one who seems concerned with students being able to research effectively and honestly, students are not going to become information literate. If students only receive information literacy instruction once or twice a year, or if instruction in the library focuses on a few basic procedures (e.g. how to use an OPAC, Dewey Decimal system, or database) at the expense of the dozens of other elements of information literacy outlined in Skills for the 21st Century Learner, then information literacy is going to be an unattainable goal. I completely agree that information literacy, in order to be effectively learned and adopted by students throughout a school, must be something that students know is valued and upheld by every one of their teachers.
I skimmed a few articles that treated information literacy like a set of discrete abilities rather than a holistic approach to using information that includes a variety of complex abilities. One such article was “A Transition Checklist for High School Seniors,” by Patricia Owen, that proposed using a survey for high school students to self-assess their “information literacy” by responding “yes” or “no” to a list of questions such as “I understand the difference between an OPAC and an online database” (22). This is problematic because the questions are overly simplistic and binary, not to mention poorly worded, and I have doubts about the accuracy of responses since students may be overconfident or may answer “no” because they do not understand the jargon used in the question rather than because they actually do not know about or how to do what they are being asked. This article and others like it prompted me to search for the terms “information fluency” and “transliteracy.” I conducted my searches using ERIC database, and returned no results for the term transliteracy when paired with “school librar*” or “media center” or “media specialist.” The same search with the “information fluency” instead of “transliteracy” returned one article from 2007 entitled “Assessing Information Fluency: Gathering Evidence of Student Learning,” by Barbara Stripling. Ironically, she starts the article by stating that the term information fluency is replacing information literacy “because students must not only know the skills, but also apply the skills fluently in any personal or academic learning situation” (25). Of course, information literacy continues to reign as the buzzword, at least in the journals that ERIC contains. Nevertheless, Stripling has articulated the need for a term that expresses not only the abilities encompassed by information literacy but also the fluent, skillful, and habitual use of these abilities. In theory, a student can possess the procedural knowledge and ability to perform in an information literate way without actually being an information literate person in his or her day-to-day actions. Additionally, literacy exists at many different levels: I may be literate in the Spanish language, meaning that I am capable of phonetically reading Spanish and understanding some of what I read, but that is a very low level of literacy. I certainly do not consider myself fluent. One may be information literate if this is defined as knowing what an OPAC is, what Boolean searching is, and how to format an MLA citation, but this is far from being information fluent or achieving high-level information literacy.
Stripling defines information fluency as a “process of inquiry and learning” and a “recursive cycle of thought” (25-26), which is not something that can be taught in a one-off lesson in the library. Conversely, it needs to be supported by the school curriculum and culture as argued by Aiani. Stripling proposes that the information literacy curriculum be developed using diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments in order to continually adjust the curriculum to meet students’ needs. Diagnostic might be through pre-lesson activities that can help the teacher/teacher-librarian determine what skills and knowledge the students lack; formative will help the teacher keep tabs on what students are doing during the research process in order to redirect them and make adjustments in teaching so that misconceptions are corrected; and summative assessment is grading for use of information fluency in content-area assignments. Incorporating assessment at these different levels can help school librarians design an information literacy curriculum that addresses and focuses on the areas of information literacy that students are most lacking, adjust teaching and lessons so that students develop necessary information literacy skills and become fluent in using them, and collaborate with teachers so that content area assignments include information literacy in their rubrics and students learn that they will consistently be held to high levels of information literacy in their work. This way, information literate behavior will not only be learned, but also become habitual and a part of students normal thinking and learning process. This fits in well with Aiani’s call for school-wide engagement in information literacy and it insists upon the importance of information fluency, not just a set of discrete research and library skills or abilities.
Aiani, Candace. “Measuring School Community Engagement in the Implementation of an Information Literacy Curriculum.” School Library Monthly XXVI, no. 7 (2010): 49-52. (29 January 2011).
Loertscher, David D., and Elizabeth Marcoux. “Common Core Standards: Opportunities for Teacher Librarians to Move to the Center of Teaching and Learning.” Teacher Librarian 38, no. 2 (2010): 8-14. (29 January 2011).
Owen, Patricia. “A Transition Checklist for High School Seniors.” School Library Monthly XXVI, no. 8 (2010): 20-23. (29 January 2011).
Stripling, Barbara. “Assessing Information Fluency: Gathering Evidence of Student Learning.” School Library Media Activities Monthly 23, no. 8 (2007): 25-29. (29 January 2011).
Reflection on previous class:
I have been forgetting to include my reflection on class in these blog posts, so I’m adding them in now. On 1/24 we discussed the readings about distance learning and online tutorials, and I was interested to learn how many of my fellow students chose U-M specifically because it was not an online program. The lack of online courses at U-M was one of the reasons I considered choosing Wayne State, as I have had fairly positive experiences taking college courses online. While I learn a lot more from discussions and interaction with other students, certain topics can be well served by online classes, especially if the in-person class is primarily lecture and/or individual work. Online classes let me go at my own pace, pursue interesting topics more deeply, and can provide a different—but still potentially beneficial—medium for collaboration and communication with others. Not all topics are suited to the types of online learning environments that are currently available, but I don’t think online learning is inherently worse than face-to-face. When it comes to more specific and discrete learning objectives, short online tutorials can be far preferable to attending a class held at a specific location on a specific date and at a specific time. We operate on such full schedules with so many demands on our time that it is far more convenient to learn how to knit in garter stitch, rotate an object in Word, or remove red eye from a photograph using Photoshop Elements than it is to drive to a class that may or may not fit in your schedule or even cover the specific topic one has questions about.
I thought the in-class screencast/Google Reader activity was really effective and well planned. I appreciated that we focused on Google Reader tutorials, as I hadn’t yet set up Google Reader and learned the basic steps from watching these tutorials (and yes, I’m ashamed to admit that). I was able to evaluate the tutorials on whether or not they answered the questions I had, rather than trying to imagine or remember what I needed to know as a novice. Evaluating a handful of screencasts with a partner and then as a class also helped me take note of some things I liked and didn’t like in different screencasts, so that I could include/avoid these things in my screencast. During class I wasn’t sure what I would screencast on, but seeing some ways that screencasts were used helped me to identify a need that a screencast could fulfill.