The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed. Information literacy has progressed from the simple definition of using reference resources to find information. Multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual, and technological, have now joined information literacy as crucial skills for this century.
Taken from the American Association of School Librarians, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner (2007), this new definition of information literacy must be introduced, developed, and adhered to if we, as educators, want our students to succeed in this era immersed in "new media" (Ito, 2010). Ito uses this term "new media" versus "digital media" or "interactive media" to capture the essence of the ever-changing, emergent nature of the 21st century digital era. "Just as in the case of youth, who are always on the verge of growing older, media are constantly undergoing a process of aging and identity reformulation in which there is a generation of the new ready to replace the old" (Ito, p. 10).
The AASL Standards were created around the following five "common beliefs":
- Reading is a window to the world (Reading in ALL formats, moving from comprehension to interpretation)
- Inquiry provides a framework for learning (Becoming an independent learner)
- Ethical behaviour in the use of information must be taught (Find and use information responsibly as a tool for learning)
- Equitable access is a key component for education (All children have the right to access all forms of information)
The first Standard, Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge, centers around the important skills of accessing back ground knowledge, locating and evaluating information, and making personal connections with that information, all in the context of authentic, "real-world" inquiries. Alberta Learning's document, Focus on Inquiry (2004), defines inquiry-based learning as, "A process where students are involved in their learning, formulate questions, investigate widely and then build new understandings, meanings and knowledge." This document and the first Standard are closely aligned and support the notion that these inquiry skills will lead to creative, self-directed, independent learners. Based on the amount of information, technology, and social networks students are exposed to today at school, at home and with their peers, these skills are critical for our students to possess so they do not feel overwhelmed or left behind. Closer to home, specifically in my School District, Kamloops/Thompson, a document was created, Information Literacy Continuum (School Library Programs, 2008), "to identify best practices," that would lead to an, "exemplary library program." The goal of this document is to:
- Support individuals and assist them in becoming independent, information literate learners
- Encourage students to make connection with past experiences and present knowledge
- Encourage librarians to integrate these skills into the instructional program
- Encourage librarians to use strategies that increase student interest and improve the process of learning
The Information Literacy Continuum shares many similar learning outcomes and performance indicators with the AASL's 21st Century Standards. There are many of the same skills outlined in both documents regarding the process of inquiry, building on existing knowledge, use of technology, and sharing information beyond the school walls. The fourth Standard, Pursue personal and aesthetic growth, delves somewhat deeper into the areas of self-assessment and individual expression when compared to the Continuum.
The ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has also developed Standards (National Educational Technology Standards - NETS) aimed at implementing technology and digital media within the school environment to "engage students and improve learning." Compared to the AASL's Standards, many of the skills (creative & critical thinking, collaboration, using technology, digital citizenship) found in the NETS are very similar. One main difference is that the ISTE developed three forms of NETS designed for Administration, Teachers, and Students. A comparison of the Standards and NETS presented by Marjorie Pappas (School Libraries Media Activities Monthly, 2008) describes the similarities and differences between the two. "Applying an inquiry process within collaborative learning situations and thinking skills," is one of the similarities mentioned by Pappas. One of the "major" differences between the two sets of standards is the ISTE's focus on "educational technology" and the AASL's focus on "information literacy." Fortunately, educators can retrieve the skills needed for their particular situation from both documents to increase student engagement and achievement.
The implication of the 21st Century Learner Standards and the National Educational Technology Standards for me in my capacity as a new 0.4 FTE Teacher-Librarian will be the implementation of these skills across the curriculum based on the limited time I will be in the library. As discussed in some of my previous courses, new TL's who come in with the, "What a mess - everything needs to be changed," attitude will most likely alienate myself from staff instead of nurturing the idealistic goal of collaboration.
To begin promoting and sharing the skills outlined in the AASL and ISTE Standards, advocacy and staff professional development will be my initial starting point in September. An advocacy toolkit for new TL's is provided on the ISTE website including a collection of success stories, templates, and starter kits aimed at various stakeholders from community members to policy makers and educators. Fortunately there are many places for new TL's to gain advice and the information needed to become successful, educated 21st century librarians, operating exemplary library programs. TL advocate Joyce Valenza's blog, The EDES 540 Wiki (created by graduate students for new/existing TL's) and a site that gives advice for novice TL's, Resource Based Learning Online.
I have learned through my studies how valuable making connections and becoming apart of these learning communities is to my own professional development. Following educational bloggersBlue Skunk Blog), Will Richardson (Web-logged) and joining social networks like the Canadian Teacher-Librarian Ning are important ways to stay abreast of new research, programs, online information, digital media, etc. and also to demonstrate to colleagues my desire for lifelong learning.
Next, I will have to present the Information Literacy Continuum document to staff, AGAIN. Beyond the presentation, there must be time given for staff to learn how to implement it to fulfill the purpose of its creation: Integrating inquiry, information literacy, and technology skills to achieve EXISTING learning outcomes. I know of at least two teachers that are excited about my learnings and would be willing to collaborate with me on some form of inquiry-based learning. I am not naive enough to imagine that there won't be obstacles to overcome or that I will achieve everything (all the ideas floating around in my head) the first year of my TL career. But, what I can keep coming back to, is the importance of these issues for future student success and my desire for continued professional growth and lifelong learning.