Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Digital Divde Series: Inactive and Active Librarians + Access to Technology

Active and Inactive Teacher Librarians

Schools librarians desire to be active.  One reason I know this is from viewing  read counts on the IASL blog posts.  Making Practice Public has 2787 pageviews, Love Your Library on February 14 has 769 pageviews, and Shifting from Helplessness to the Principles of the Possible has 516 pageviews.  

I agree with AASL’s assertion that we need to be active as…

  • Leaders
  • Instructional partners
  • Informational Specialists
  • Teachers
  • Program Administers

Let Us See The Light

On the darkside I believe that some inactive librarians exist due to unfair perceptions about our roles  and unequal partnerships within our schools.  Since we intend to accomplish extraordinary acts,  I think that working conditions for inactive librarians are usually not by choice.  Far too often teacher librarians have to work with sub par job descriptions leaving them to operate multiple buildings like warehouses. Or others are excited to share ideas and collaborate but people are unable to partner up because they can not organize effectively on their end.  Our profession demands that we possess technology skills yet I have been advised not to be too far ahead of my users because I may forget about them.  So that leaves some of us caught in a catch 22 with limited opportunities to exercise our skills.  I think that these type of school libraries contribute to the digital divide.  Teacher librarians are proactive. Teacher librarians are known for being independent and lifelong learners with unique perspectives.   We strive to have spaces that reflect innovation yet not all of us are free from resistance to change.  We are embracing change instead of fearing it.  Awareness to what is possible is key to opening the doors to new and modern learning environments.  Referring back to Dr. Ross J. Todd's article in the December 2013 issue of Teacher Librarian Shifting from Helplessness to the Principles of the Possible, I think that anyone can be a possibilist but if they are ruled by impossibilists they  may be traveling down the road positioned as a sitting duck. The system needs to allow us to be the game changers that we are and accept our offerings to work towards positive change.

Snoop Around and Get In the Game

Ernie Cox advised attendees of the Iowa Association of School Librarians Leadership Academy in June of 2013 to get comfortable with our principals and teachers because they are critical to our success.  Since it is possible that they didn’t receive exposure to library practices in their educational training, we should meet regularly with our principals and teachers to get in the game.   We need commitments from administrators to help us promote our services. Let’s stop the confusion of what our roles are. Teacher librarians are secret weapons and should not be perceived as anything less than essential to educational growth. Our job is to share knowledge just like all the other members of the team.  Let go of the negativity and make room for another set of ideas.  Our educational systems should be supporting us just as much as we are supporting them now more than ever.

No matter our position in the game we need to stay active and voice our points of view.  One way is through information literacy models encouraging shared learning environments.  But what if schools  don’t use AASL Standards for the 21st century Learner and/or Common Core standards?  I believe that a consequence is that students will not receive a relevant education to become independent learners.  If instruction of 21st century skills does not exist at your school find ways to reach out and develop inquiry learning through teacher librarian partnerships.

Access is Everything: Hardware, Software, and Instruction.  Program divide is another new digital divide (connection between instruction and technology tools)

Neil deGrasse Tyson an American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium talked about access to information on a Bill Moyers interview, “If not getting equal access then you are not getting the best people...not a sign of a healthy democracy or capitalist democracy.  The knowledge society of today has a tremendous democratic potential, especially for young people.”

The digital divide is multifaceted.  Having quality access to hardware, software, and technology based on instructional practices are must have items for success. Ernie Cox addressed access to technology in his article The Collaborative Mind: Tools for the 21st learner and talks about the barriers to introducing technology. Regardless of our environments we need to create and maintain toolkits letting go of old items and adding new items that are relevant and are ready to use wherever we go.

Access to information is a universal need. In our district we need help making the connection between instruction and technology tools. Whether it is lack of funds, training, outdated textbooks or web filtering the hurdles seem endless.  In order to ensure students and staff have equitable access to both print and digital resources, the teacher librarian is in a position to help close the gap between the have and have nots by providing materials.   

Living In A Democracy

Tyson later went on to say, “Society changes, but some of its fundamentals do not. Among these fundamentals is the freedom to express our ideas, to read, to listen, to write and to produce information and communicate with others. The ability to speak, read, write and communicate is a human right. In 21st century, societies driven by media and technology, this basic human right can be extended to the ability to effectively engaged with information and media content.”

In closing I ponder the differences between teacher librarians that work in a quality school library program vs. a  not so quality school library program.  I really wish that I was focusing more on what we have in common.  But lately I question what we have in common. However I believe if we talk about what we have in common tensions may ease between us that exist because of the digital divide.  

Topics for the next digital divide posts include public education vs. charter schools, Finland, and Media and Information Literacy skills.