PARTNERS FOR INFORMATION LITERACY
Parents have an essential role to play of their children's literacy development, including information literacy and technological competence.
By taking an active interest in their school's curriculum, and in particular in their students' learning activities, parents may find many opportunities to reinforce the skills and strategies that are taught throughout the years of formal education. Information literacy is not restricted to learning that occurs within the school; students need many opportunities to practise their approaches to accessing and using information in meaningful ways. When families focus on information problem-solving together, everyday events and decisions become effective lessons for all learners, regardless of age. School libraries are rapidly becoming centres where this approach to learning is practised and parents are invited to become involved in their children's projects, literacy promotions, and celebrations of learning. Similarly, other community agencies and resources, especially the public library, museums and galleries, are centres for learning and frequented by children and their families. Parents should expect to contribute more than volunteer hours for book fairs or clerical duties; their school libraries need their enthusiastic support and their involvement in learning as resource people and as mentors for students. This is also true of other community members who no longer have students in school; their willingness to work with students, as reading partners, as computer assistants, as primary sources of information, should not be underestimated. Resource-based learning is limited only by the imaginations of those who structure the learning environment!
When families focus on information problem-solving together, everyday events and decisions become effective lessons for all learners, regardless of age.|
The booklet, Building Better Learners, was developed by Carolyn Ledwell, a parent and teacher in Prince Edward Island. While studying about teacher-librarianship, Carolyn wrote and published this wonderful guide for parents, describing how school libraries have changes, and encouraging readers to take an active role with their own and other children's information literacy through greater knowledge about and involvement with their local school library programs.
The Ontario document, Information Studies, 1 - 12 (1998) describes the "complementary responsibilities" for teachers and for their students:
Teachers are responsible for developing appropriate instructional strategies. They need to address different student needs and bring enthusiasm and a variety of teaching approaches to the classroom. Teachers know they must persevere in their efforts and make every reasonable attempt to ensure sound learning for every student. (They) must know the individual strengths and needs of every student. They are the experts in the curriculum for the grade level they teach.
Research studies (Clyde, 1996, Haycock, 1995, Krashen, 1992, Haycock, 1992, Woolls, 1990) indicate that the development of student competence in information skills is most effective when integrated with classroom instruction through collaborative program planning and team teaching by two equal partners - the classroom teacher and the teacher-librarian.
Resource-based learning is one of the instructional approaches available to classroom teachers (with the support of excellent school libraries and teacher-librarians in many schools.) Since it entails an emphasis on integrated skill instruction with emphasis on critical thinking, a variety of cooperative learning strategies, and student-centred inquiry, it is one that is highlighted in our provincial curriculum and programs, as well as the regional Atlantic Canadian core curriculum documents for public education.
Resource-based learning is not optional for teacher-librarians; it is their pervasive instructional approach.
Development of student competence in information skills is most effective when integrated with classroom instruction through collaborative program planning and team teaching by two equal partners - the classroom teacher and the teacher-librarian.|
Teacher-librarians are information specialists, knowledgeable about learning resources in all formats. Their instructional programs are integrated with classroom and subject areas across the school and this provides teacher-librarians with a school-wide perspective on the development of information literacy. They are the logical personnel to coordinate the school's information literacy plans since they are aware of, and involved in many, of the resource-based learning activities that are planned and implemented for and with students throughout their years of formal education within their school.
Teacher-librarians select a broad base of learning resources to support classroom programs and the range of student learning needs and styles. Recognizing that library collections are becoming a balance of in-house, on-line, (and locally available) sources, teacher-librarians focus on acquiring and using information technology to support student learning. They often provide network management and technology (leadership) within their schools, with the ultimate goal that the technology will become almost transparent and seamless in the learning process for students and teachers.
With their unique combination of professional skills - educator and information professional - teacher-librarians perform the role of the information intermediary - bridging the gap between the needs of students growing up in an information society, and the abilities of students to access and use the information they need.
(Information Studies 1 - 12, [Draft, 1998])
This is certainly true for many teacher-librarians in Prince Edward Island as well; they are involved with their school information technology committees and they provide this perspective and experience for curriculum committees at the provincial level. They are seen as "technology leaders" in their schools as they model the use of information technology for management, communication, instruction, and for personal/professional uses.
No longer the "sage on the stage," teacher-librarians have become "guides on the side" for their students, ensuring that they receive the attention they need for maximum learning to occur. When they collaborate with other educators, teacher-librarians, skilled in resource-based learning, have opportunities to model and support this shift in instructional practice. While some schools still do not have the professional service and leadership provided by qualified teacher-librarians, all schools benefit from the shared experience and suggestions provided by those teacher-librarians who have contributed to this document, and to professional development activities for all educators in this province.
Their commitment to resource-based learning and to the development of excellent school library programs should provide many fine examples for others to emulate and adapt for their own school improvement plans. Professionalism and leadership at all levels, along with local support groups and an excellent provincial networking system, have enabled Canada's smallest province to boast some of the finest, integrated school library programs in the world! Collaborative planning, teaching and assessment will ensure that teacher-librarians and their teaching partners will become more reflective in their teaching practice. Together, with their students, they will be constantly developing and revising learning activities that meet the needs of our society and its learners.
They are seen as "technology leaders" in their schools as they model the use of information technology for management, communication, instruction, and for personal/professional uses.|
Students in this "Information (or Knowledge) -Based Society," are expected to take greater responsibility for their own learning and academic progress. Resource-based learning places the student in the centre of their learning environment with a wide range of enriching experiences during their formative years.
This means that engagement in learning is more likely than in more traditional learning environments where the teacher is at the centre of instruction and learning. Simply having learning resources, beyond the textbook or the teacher, will not ensure that students get the type of information literacy development they need. Students need be willing to accept the challenge provided by resource-based learning. This means they must be heavily involved and expected to contribute to the learning process. They need to feel that their own experiences, interests, and judgements matter, that they have some choice in the inquiries they design in collaboration with their teachers. Since students' questions are critical to their learning, they have to be taught how to ask good questions and not simply have these provided for them by others. If they need skills in accessing and evaluating information in their pursuit for knowledge, they need to learn these essential skills and strategies, and to develop them through practice. When they have opportunities to creatively use new information to create their own knowledge, a synthesis of the best ideas and information available, students will opt for intense involvement and their learning will be marked by excitement and creativity. Their expected process and products will be as acceptable as their willingness to be full partners in their own learning. This, of course, also means that students, like their teachers, need to become more reflective about their learning. Practice and skill in assessing their own processes and evaluating their own products will prepare them to accept greater responsibility as well as ensuring that they will become lifelong learners, capable of independent and informed decision-making.
Students need be willing to accept the challenge provided by resource-based learning. This means they must be heavily involved and expected to contribute to the learning process.|
Together with teachers and teacher-librarians, students, and the school community, school administrators have the responsibility for leading the school-wide change required to support the type of learning necessary for these information or knowledge-based times. Support for resource-based learning is essential and this is best developed when there is a collaborative school culture.
To read in depth about the school administrator's role in supporting the development of information literacy, resource-based learning, and the school library, please visit School Library Program: A Handbook for School Administrators, a comprehensive on-line document development developed by a team of educators graduating from the Diploma in School Librarianship Program at U.P.E.I.
Many school administrators know that implementing a school-wide focus on information literacy through resource-based learning will impact positively on the collaborative culture in the school community. Good school library facilities, along with access to collections of adequate and appropriate learning resources in varied formats, are essential for the implementation of resource-based learning. The school administrator, especially in schools without a professional teacher-librarian, needs to be visionary in school improvement planning, helping others connect the essential nature of information literacy with other school-level decisions, with regard to facilities, resources and personnel.
Teachers and other community partners who have never experienced the advantages for their students (and for their own teaching) when an integrated school library program and a qualified teacher-librarian are available, need administrators and decision-makers at all levels who support this improvement and a clear focus on information literacy. Where decisions are made, for whatever reasons, not to support resource-based learning and students' information literacy development through the provision of quality school library programs and services, school administrators have an even greater responsibility for providing their students with adequate access to learning resources. They also need to be acutely aware of their additional responsibility for ensuring that their students have equity with regard to information literacy instruction. This means that all educators and parents in these school communities accept the full responsibility for their students' information literacy development by employing the same type of learning strategies and activities made available to other students in schools with adequate library instructional programs implemented by professional teacher-librarians. Creative use of technology for telelearning, for example, and improved methods for sharing resources, including professional human resources, will need to be explored and optimized for these otherwise disadvantaged schools and their students. In this "Information Age," these can no longer be viewed as optional choices or "frills," all our students deserve the best instruction and learning experiences we can make available for them!
Many school administrators know that implementing a school-wide focus on information literacy through resource-based learning will impact positively on the collaborative culture in the school community.|