Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My response to an ASCD EL article - Teaching the iGeneration

Let me preface my response by saying that I don't normally comment on articles because it takes up work time that I use for doing other things. I have a HUGE stack of professional journals that I plan on getting through...someday...I'll post a picture of it sometime soon...:) I'm going to be honest here and say that "soon" usually ends up being a few months. The only reason I picked up the latest issue of Educational Leadership is because my Assistant Principal stopped by my desk yesterday and mentioned that he would like to read EL when I was done with it. *sigh* That meant it had to go to the top of the reading pile because somebody was waiting for it. That "somebody" being an climbed up a few more notches on my priority list. So, I read it this morning.

At the end of this academic year, I will have been co-chair of our state mandated school improvement committee. I will have planned and executed countless professional development days for a teaching staff of about 80 spread out over 3 campuses. As a public school, budgets are tight, class sizes are getting bigger and the IB curriculum is still demanding excellence from its students and teachers. Despite numerous obstacles, we are integrating technology into every course we offer, we have each and every teacher using Moodle, we have access to millions of dollars worth of academic research databases and our library is available to students 24/7.

It is a soul crushing, professional existence, to have to justify/explain my job ALL the time. Some of the academic world tends to understand my job description and I enjoy a brief sense of professional acceptance. There is not a doubt in my mind, the school librarian stereotype of the shushing, old lady, bun-in -the hair, sitting at the desk, stamping books prevails. No matter how hard I work to be a leader in educational technology, provide professional development workshops in new software and hardware, integrate Web 2.0 activities in all aspects of our curriculum - reading professional education journals that completely dismiss my role in education makes me tired. Tired, burned out and disappointed. With all the librarian blogs out there, the conferences, the magazine and journals, studies, organizations, campaigns for saving school and public libraries, librarians on Twitter, facebook, etc, etc... There is still a limited understanding of the role of school and university librarians.

On to the article:
Larry D. Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, wrote the following in his article "Teaching the iGeneration" in the February 2011 issue of Educational Leadership, "When I talk to teachers, the first comment I often hear is, "How can I find time to locate and organize all these online sources?" One answer is to use a knowledge broker—someone who helps you identify online resources. Your knowledge broker can be a techsavvy older student, a local community college student, or even a parent. Give the knowledge broker the task of identifying possible resources that you can use to support your curriculum" (Rosen, 14).

I have to (respectfully) completely and totally disagree with this statement. Why on earth would a teacher allow a non-professional to select curricular materials for students? Would we allow older students and parents to select the textbook? How do students and parents know what state and/or Common Core standards need to be met? I WISH this article would have given the advice of the time-strapped history teacher to pay a visit to the school librarian. The school librarian IS the "knowledge broker" of the school. They are the ones with a Master's degree in information retrieval, research, and 21st century technology knowledge. We also have ISTE, AASL and state standards to meet. We also have an overview of what is going on in most classrooms so that cross-curricular connections are made through us.

In the history teacher example, I believe the history teacher is the expert in content knowledge. The school librarian (Media Specialist, teacher-librarian) is the research and technology integration expert. The 2 people working together in a collaborative environment is how things are supposed to work in a school. There are an infinite number of valuable free websites out there in cyberspace. There is also a lot of garbage that is full of bias, historical revisionism, hoaxes and other subtle misinformation that the average person might not catch. There is also a overwhelming amount of information available in research databases and other paid sites that schools subscribe to. It is impossible for classroom teachers to remember all this when putting together lesson plans or setting up their online classroom management systems. That is why they work with the school librarian. To provide their students with the best quality resources avilable to that particular school.

If I was to work with a history teacher here, I would first search for an article in the History in Dispute series that I have available in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. I would post that article (which presents multiple persepctives) in Moodle. I would look in Discovery Education United Streaming to find historical footage from real documentaries. I would make sure that students (and the teacher) are familiar with the Gale World History in Context database and include a widget for that particular database in their history class on Moodle. I would provide links to credible information on sites like the Library of Congress, British National Archives, museums, historical societies, etc. I would check YouTube for relevant clips as long as the source is clear (I would not link to student projects as the information might not be 100% accurate). To integrate technology, I would propose setting up a wiki like this (yes, EVERY 10th grader at our 3 campuses did this project)

Every 11th grader did this project

integrate a Twitter feed like this (needs some tweaking, but it was my first attempt to bring Twitter into the classroom)

Make digital stories like this (I was quite proud of this student)

I could go on...
These projects happened because of the work I did in collaborating with history teachers. I think we did a pretty good job. Not only did the students get amazing technology experience, but they learned tons of history content and they learned valuable research skills while using library resources.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of all things technology. I am a supporter in having schools experiment with and implement social networking, ebooks, ereaders, research databases, netbooks, cell phones in the classroom, Web 2.0 technologies, SMARTboards, online classes, iPods and iPads and whatever new comes out. In the end, everything needs to have some sort of educational value. Students need to have learned something new and state standards need to be met. This cannot be accomplished without knowledgeable classroom teachers and certified school librarians.

I market, promote, teach, integrate, learn, write, blog, twitter, facebook, skype, yammer, attend conferences (both library and educational technology), listen to podcasts/webinars, read magazines, journals, newspapers, download apps onto my iPhone all in a quest to be connected and stay on the cutting edge. What more can I possibly do to make others understand how valuable school libraries are?

Maybe it comes down to our title? Instead of Media Specialist, librarian, school librarian, teacher-librarian -- we need to start writing information retrieval specialist, knowledge broker, educational technology integrator, knowledge processor, critical thinking teacher, Moodle Goddess.....

This particular article served as a catalyst for me and the articles I have read over the years that gloss over or ignore the role of a school librarian. I am a bit disappointed in ASCD for not consistently promoting the role of Media Specialists. We ARE the teachers with the education and certification to be the school leaders in implementing technology in classrooms around the world!


sbevier said...

Very well said. Thank you for taking the time to construct an eloquent response showing everyone how valuable we are to students, parents, teachers and society as a whole.

Katy Koskela said...

Claudia, I just checked the MAME FB page, and saw your comment about this response. So, I checked out your blog, found your article response in your archived blog, watched the awesome student created video as well as your TV interview. Whew!!! You have a handle on so much more of the technology components than I do. Good job! You should blow your own horn more and spread the word about your blog. Thanks for your hard work. You gave me some ideas for Mercy.