Information and Technological Literacy Standards – Do they exist in your context? If so, who knows about them?

February 1, 2010

In education, we create standards to keep our instruction focused and consistent, so that we may, in fact, help to develop contributing members of society. When I think of standards, I think of a guide. The concepts and skills are specific, but the way in which they are taught can vary. This flexibility is necessary so that standards can be applied to our evolving world, and to our ever changing technology and information needs. The American Library Association (ALA) with the American Association of School Libraries (AASL) has created the Information Literacy skills for the 21st century learner.  According to Marcia A. Mardis (2008), the AASL standards, “Are flexible enough to adapt to local situations yet forward thinking enough to support students for years to come.” The International Society for Technology (ISTE)  also recognized the need to create and implement standards for the 21st century learner with their National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS –S)  in 2007.

Both the NETS and AASL standards were created collaboratively with the intent to demonstrate the common vision of all education stakeholders: to equip students with the tools they need to become successful 21st century learners.  But it’s not enough to publish these standards, because they won’t magically implement themselves.  

How do we implement these standards for 21st century learners and 21st century educators?

The next challenge is, to implement the AASL and NETS standards. The AASL blog post “Midwinter Institute: Bringing ‘Em On: 21st Century Skills Aligning With Standards (Jan.21, 2010)  informs us that the Partnership for 21st Century skills provide a means for implementing the AASL standards. This framework for 21st century learning is supported by the U.S. government and is being implemented in 14 states thus far (pingback to my previous post). Implementation involves teacher training and funding for resources. It seems that stakeholders are quite serious about implementing these standards. Hopefully the Partnership for 21st Century skills  is leading the way and providing a model for other countries to also establish and implement skills necessary for their 21st century learners. Ideally, the AASL and NETS standards would be fair use and open for other countries to adopt and implement. This would ensure more equality in terms of which skills are taught to 21st century learners worldwide. I can only hope that this organization continues to document and publish their results.

In Canada, it appears that each province has its own technology and information literacy standards, separate from those of AASL and ISTE, which might contribute to the digital divide. Perhaps one solution would be to adopt the AASL and ISTE standards globally, so that there is one definition of what it means to be a global citizen. If this were to happen, would it then be near impossible for certain developing countries to meet standards, especially where they are unable to afford technologies?

Assessment – the key to successful implementation

Once standards are implemented, their effectiveness needs to be assessed. Looking back at the article, “Missing: Students’ Global Outlook,”  I support Alemu’s (2010) message that standards should be measured by a combination of formative assessment, summative assessment, and informal observation, with all forms of assessment weighted equally. To produce tangible results using all forms of assessment is key to advocating further implementation of 21st Century Skills.  I currently have a small space on every students’ report card in the elementary school, where I provide a grade for Achievement, Effort, and Behavior. I am also able to add comments. I create rubrics, assess student work, and report to teachers, students, and parents. This is how I am accountable for implementing the AASL standards in my school. Many would say that this sounds like a step in the right direction toward acknowledging the contributions of teacher-librarians in my school. I would argue that this “personal space” on the report cards sends the message that only the teacher-librarian is responsible for the implementation of information literacy skills, which is contradictory to the idea that it takes a village, or in this case a school community, to develop a 21st century learner. Ideally I would work alongside teachers to help both students AND teachers become 21st century learners. I would plan with the teachers, team teach, and ASSESS with the teachers.

What does this mean for me?

Because information literacy and technology standards are created separately, one might believe that these should also be implemented in isolation. In order to break down this invisible barrier to successful integration of skills, communication is key. I will continue to communicate with my administrator and each teacher in Grades 1-5, about the information literacy skills I teach each week to their students. This will raise awareness of the existence of information literacy standards in our school.

I will implement our information literacy standards by continuing to model ways that teachers can integrate these information literacy skills with what they are doing in their classrooms, by sending descriptions of our library lessons in  my weekly, “A week in review,” summaries.

In order to successfully implement our information literacy standards in a way that is meaningful and authentic, I need to assess the effectiveness of my rare opportunities for “true collaboration” (rare because of a fixed teaching schedule) and advocate true collaboration between teacher-librarian and classroom teacher as the way of the future. This means that I need to be vocal, be visible, be active.


Alemu, Daniel. “Missing: Students’ Global Outlook.” (Winter 2010). Kappa Delta Pi Record. 46;2. Proquest Education Journals. Pg.54.

American Association for School Librarians. Standards for the 21st century learner. http://www.ala.org/ala/aasl/aaslproftools/learningstandards/standards.cfm (accessed

Loertscher, David. (June 2008)“Tool for the 21st Century Information Leader.” Teacher Librarian, 35;5:52-58.

Mardis, Marchia A. (June 2008 ). “Thirty Helens Agree: 2007 Research Supports AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learne.”. School Library Media Activities Monthly. ProQuest Education Journals, 24;10. pg56

Pappas, Marjorie.(June 2008) “Standards for the 21st Century Learner: Comparisons with NETS and State Standards.” School Library Media Activities Monthly. 24;10. Pg.19-26



  1. Applying the standards globally might work if there is a commitment to support education globally. We are experiencing problems in Canada with families/schools being able to afford the technology required to meet present demands.
    As I read your posting it hit me…do we actually need two standards documents? Wouldn’t it be even easier/more effective if one set of standards existed instead of two?

    • Mark, yours were my thoughts exactly. In the school I work at, we have a teacher-librarian and a computer teacher…two separate people with two separate jobs. But do they really need to be separate jobs? As the TL, I sometimes worry about stepping on the toes of our computer teacher, but with so much information being online, I feel like it really is necessary that the two sets of standards are intertwined. The computer teacher at my school and I often collaborate and toss ideas back and forth because we do see our “jobs” as intertwined.

  2. Thanks, Natasha. Thanks for bringing up the important (and often misunderstood) challenge of fixed schedules as a barrier to true collaboration between teachers and teacher-librarians. You’re absolutely right that there are ways around the situation, but it does create a real challenge that TLs who have a more flexible schedule don’t have to deal with on a regular basis. As you point out, true collaboration is the key for the implementation of these standards, as a TL is in the ideal spot to help teachers and students become 21st century teachers and learners. Thanks for giving me lots to think about!

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