Get Your Head in the Game, Get Ahead of the Game

January 18, 2010

Guiding communities, leading schools, and inspiring students to become information literate means something very different from what it did pre 21st century, and it is anything BUT a game. In order for librarians to keep from being benched, so to speak, we definitely need to be one step ahead in the fascinating world of online communication tools.    

Get your head in the game

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In Keith MacPherson’s article on “Shaping Global Criticality with School Libraries ,he talks of a changing digital divide as countries around the world are finding technologies much more accessible. Valenza   further describes this divide as, “Those who can find quality information in all media formats effectively, and those who cannot.” The issues MacPherson raises, however, are critical to anyone teaching young “tech savvy” students. He talks about studies conducted globally which indicate that literacy practices of our children are leaning towards

1.They are using digital media and social networks

2.They are exposed and engaging in online interactions that are considered unsafe

3.They need help with processing the massive amounts of info available to them.

Macpherson places emphasis on the importance of teaching students critical literacy skills, so that they are able to play safely, both online and offline. These critical literacies include actively and independently reflect on and question the assumptions, goals, views, relations, policies, practices and structures operating in human social, political, and economic systems ranging from the micro level (…) to the macro level (…)” McPherson (2008). As overwhelming as they seem, they are things that teacher-librarians are trained for and are naturally inclined to think about, especially if, “you know you are a 21st century librarian” (Valenza 2009). However, I don’t believe that librarians can do this on their own. It takes the teamwork of the parents, community, administrators, teachers, librarians, and students to develop a 21st century learner.

One of our responsibilities as a 21st century librarian is to be an advocate for the information rights of our students. On November 30, 2009, Carolyn Foote clarifies the reason for which we continue to be advocates for our students and their rights to freedom of expression. Technology will continue to move forward, whether we keep up with it or not. Regardless of what tools  are out there, our students need to first learn the skills necessary to be able to access, process, and synthesize new information… and loads of it.  I echo Carolyn’s (Nov,2009) message with my own thoughts, that we are most certainly stifling the freedom of self expression when we do not allow children to apply literacy skills using the most effective communication tools available, in a time when children are mature beyond their years and are continuously bombarded with massive amounts of conflicting information.

What does this mean for me as a Teacher-Librarian at my school? I heard several times from my classmates that administration needs to initiate and implement a vision for technology integration in schools. I think that being a 21st librarian means having a 21st century administrator. And as “information specialists,” it is our responsibility to ensure that our administrators are aware of the growing possibilities of technology integration and what skills are necessary for successful implementation of those technologies. This means regular, open communication and a positive relationship with one’s administrator. In order to be able to continue to provide up to date information to one’s administrator, the TL must stay, “ahead of the game.” For me, this means adopting tweeting as a regular professional practice. It means continuing to read professional literature, not just in my own field. It means attending professional development workshops. And it means connecting with other teacher-librarians all over the world.  

I feel ahead of most of the staff at my school, because of the inquiry skills and technology experience that I gained in the 501 course. In Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson’s  article, Things that keep us up at night , they made a statement that, “Librarians who don’t have PLNs, don’t attend conferences, don’t read cutting-edge professional literature—from both the library and the education worlds—are dragging our profession down,” struck a chord with me. Could the same be said about teachers? What I have observed when working with teachers this year, as their TL, is that many have no idea about web2.0 tools like RSS aggregators, wikis, blogs, and ning. In the case of some teachers, they don’t know what it available to them, so why would they buy into a new web2.0 tool simply because I have said it’s, “really cool”? As Dawn stated, “Change is hard” and it takes a lot of convincing, modeling, and evidence. Shirley mentioned school and library missions in her post. I have heard repeatedly from my classmates that to initiate change, one should clearly identify a library mission, or a vision. Should our first library mission, which ultimately serves the best interest of the students, be to guide teachers through the exploration of web 2.0 tools and show them how to access and evaluate information on the web?

When Joyce Valenza asked, “what would you add” to her Manifesto, there were several suggestions that came to mind. “You know you’re a 21st century teacher-librarian when,”

1. you consider ways to reach not only the students, but also their families in order to solidify support systems for those on their journey to becoming information literate.

2. You make it a priority to collect information and recommendations from all stakeholders when creating a library mission.

I agree wholeheartedly with Valenza when she states, ““At this moment in time, information and media fluency have never been more important.  At this moment in time, literacy has never been more important,” (Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto, 2009)



  1. I find myself saying this over and over…the key to successful education in any century is still the educator. Your emphasis on the community approach to these issues instead of the lone ranger idea was also bang on. I honestly believe that if the manifesto is true and the trends we are reading about are also true then librarians need to take on a larger role in education. We teachers know our stuff but not many of us are specialists at the skills required by our students as we are just learning them as well.

  2. Thanks, Natasha. You raise some excellent points. I am particularly struck by your comment, which reiterates Valenza and Johnson’s comments about TLs need to have PLNs and attend conferences and join the conversation about these issues. You ask if the same cannot (should not) be said for teachers. I think you have hit on something very important here…TLs are in a great position to advocate for, train about, model these 21st century skills. But what about classroom teachers? Do they not have the same responsibilities for their own professional learning? I think this is particularly true here in Canada, where so few schools have access to a qualified, trained TL. Classroom teachers more and more need to be the ones who are modelling these behaviours (hopefully with the support of 21st century TLs and administrators). So, how do we get teachers on board? How do we get the kind of buy in that is needed to see institutional change? What would a school look like if all the teachers were indeed 21st century teachers? Lots of questions–some of which we will no doubt talk about throughout this course. Thanks for giving me so much food for thought!


  3. You say, “I don’t believe that librarians can do this on their own. It takes the teamwork of the parents, community, administrators, teachers, librarians, and students to develop a 21st century learner.”
    Then you go on to outline how this might be done! Thanks for doing such a great job of synthesizing our readings and going on to point out some common sense ways of proceeding. You’ve helped me clarify my thoughts.

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