Road Block

February 16, 2010

Road Block

Originally uploaded by JenvanW

Should teachers and librarians put their careers on the line in order uphold the intellectual freedom rights of children?


Digital Native, Digital Immigrant, and Shades of Gray

February 8, 2010

 Who are the digital natives?

According to Prensky (2001), digital natives are “those who have grown up speaking the digital language.” My interpretation of this would be that digital natives are those who are so comfortable with ever changing technologies that they are able to adapt, adopt new technologies quickly, and easily upgrade without ever becoming attached to a new technology, because they truly understand that technology is dynamic, not static.

Defying the Myths that Drive the Stereotypes

According to the defined age bracket, I fall into the Digital Native (DN) category. But I would hardly consider myself a digital native, nor do I fit the rest of Prensky’s DN mold. When considering Prensky’s (2001) characteristics of a digital native vs. a digital immigrant, I found that I was a combination of the two.  I prefer information quickly, but in a sequential order. I prefer graphics and text at the same time, and I multitask out of necessity. The problem with labels is that we are not cookie cutter people, and therefore, very few of us will fit a mold perfectly. I think that my classmate’s “tapestry” metaphor best describes the various abilities, tendencies, and preferences of technology users today.

Problems with creating the DN label?

Cheryl Oakes (2009) describes Sarah Fryer’s ability as a DN to quickly watch with her eyes, no verbal explanation, then create her own animation through trial and error. Oakes (2009) commented on the fact that verbal instruction was not necessary as Sarah Fryer learned to use Animation-Ish to create her own storyboard. I hesitate to assume that all our young students would be able to catch on to this technology so quickly, without verbal prompt. And this is one of the problems with creating the DN label: that we are attempted to make assumptions about the experiences, prior knowledge and skill set of those who appear to fall into a particular category.

Another problem with creating these very general labels is the number of people who are offended or discouraged by being slated into a “group.” Kathy Schrock makes it clear that our digital status is not black and white, native vs. immigrant, and that there is a shade of gray, which she labels, “digital pioneer.”

Barriers to teaching digital natives:

As mentioned in Greenhow’s (2008) article, “Who are Today’s Learners,” students want to be prepared for the creative use of technology that can be applied both in their recreational use after school and in potential careers. Teachers are in a really tough spot in many ways. Even if a teacher wanted to spend all of their spare time (which so many teachers don’t have a lot of) trying to keep up with new technologies, there are certain factors that are beyond teachers’ control. In many school districts/divisions, 

a. there is little funding for new technologies in schools

b. very few professional development opportunities or “time to explore” are offered

c. teachers continue to feel the pressure to control the classroom environment so that they can cover all the necessary content in order to teach the test.

Another barrier to teaching Digital Natives is the assumption that all digital natives are equally tech savvy. However, there does still exist a digital divide. How do we ensure that all students have equal access to technology? How do we ensure that all students receive the same critical literacy and information literacy skills instruction when, as we learned in last week’s discussions, standards vary from province to province and country to country?

Implications for those who teach Digital Natives:

Some might argue that the behaviours of DN’s online are guided by a set of social rules different from those expected in face to face interactions. This may be a result of the DN’s feeling comfortable with forming relationships online that exist only as long as is necessary, but can quickly be abandoned. As several of my classmates pointed out, this really isn’t a new phenomenon. As our social environment changes, so do our relationships. The only difference now is that this may be happening at a much faster pace with the help of technology. It is for this reason that I feel it is my responsibility to teach students online etiquette and the fact that their online presence should be a true reflection of who they are in person –  their values, strengths, interests, etc.

A Teacher’s Role

What is our role as educators of these “digital natives?” We are no longer “experts” at everything. We become the guide on the side while we teach our students how to learn, by learning along with them.  We need to differentiate in order to help all students, regardless of their online experience, reap the benefits of unlimited possibilities that technology provides. This means training our students to be leaders, to be able to collaborate with their peers and build on each other’s strengths.  This means letting go of control, seeking student input in the direction of our lessons, and being okay with the idea that, “I will learn something from my students today.”

Dr.John Grohol (April 2009) states that, “This task — of helping parents and teachers to understand the particular challenges of educating young people for a world of search engines, online social networks, and mobile media — is not overwhelmingly complex. It’s too bad that this kind of education is a low priority, while the moral panic that drives dangerous censorship, ineffective legislation, and frightens parents away from introducing their children to media practices that will be important to their lives in this century is overwhelmingly popular.”


Greenhow,  Christine. (September/October 2008). “Who are Today’s Learners?” Learning and Leading with Technology.ISTE. Pg.16-17.

Grohol, Dr.John. (April 2009).  “Forum on Our Digital Future.” Digital_Nation: Life on the Final Frontier. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/blog/2009/04/live-discussion.html

Oakes, Cheryl. (February, 2009). “When was the last time you watched someone teach a digital learner?” http://cheryloakes50.blogspot.com/2009/10/digital-learner-last-week-while-someone.html

Prensky, Marc. (October 2001). “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.” On the Horizon. MCB University Press, 9;5.

YouTube.com . Google D.C. Talks: Born Digital. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyMln5GVyag


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


Writing in the Future – revolution or evolution?

January 26, 2010

Checkout this article about how online reading is creating reading habits that might affect the way authors need to write.



January 25, 2010


Originally uploaded by loving life 2009

This is the video that my friend’s brother created from photos he took during his life altering stay/work with the boys at Enfants de Dieu.


A Promising Future

January 25, 2010

What does our future hold? What will education look like 20 years from now? Perhaps our future already exists, in the most unlikely place.

A Glimpse into What our Future…Present Holds

Recently, a friend of mine, Mel, traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, a city still suffering the devastating effects of the 1994 genocide. Before embarking on her trip to Africa, she and her students organized a bake sale in order to raise money that Mel could ensure ended up in the hands of children most in need.

Mel’s brother worked for one year at a self-sustaining street boys center named Enfants de Dieu  (EDD) in Kigali, Rwanda. Interestingly, this “Children of God,” as it is translated to in English, is a secular organization that supports 200 boys who are either orphaned or living on the streets. Its name symbolizes the rule that this boy’s center protects all religions and beliefs. This center teaches the boys to be accepting and open.

The impact this center had on Mel’s brother’s life, inspired Mel to see, first hand, what it was all about. When Mel, her husband, and their two friends arrived at the center, she told the director, Rafiki Callixte, that she had a sum of money to be donated to their organization. With his mission being to rehabilitate, educate, and reintegrate the boys, the director responded that he would ask the boys to decide how their money would be spent. Mel’s perspective on education and hope for the children of Rwanda was completely restored in the moments that followed.

Like the treasure chest at the end of a treasure hunt, she walked into a world where the children, despite loss, suffering, poverty, and fear, had been empowered by one man to develop the skills I believe are necessary for a 21st century learner: Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Communication skills, and above all, the ability to show compassion for others.  At EDD, the boys have an organized government system, consisting of 7 “ministries”: administration, education, health, sports and recreation, social affairs, agriculture, and housing.  Each ministry, with its elected representative, is responsible for the decision making relevant to their ministry. However, ALL of the boys are responsible for contributing to the achievement of each ministry’s goals.

When they heard about this donation, the boys were asked to write a proposal for how the money should be spent. Administration asked for a vehicle to conduct business in the city, as the walk to the city took several hours both ways. Education asked for shoes for the boys to be able to walk to school. Health asked for a microscope and slides so that the resident nurse could do lab tests and find out results without the boys having to make the long journey into the city when they got sick. Sports asked to rent machines to level the soccer field which was in poor shape. Social affairs asked to have the dorms expanded and made larger. Agriculture asked for a cow and for shoes for those having to walk into the cityto buy supplies. Housing asked for a lawnmower to replace the machete they use to cut grass on their 4 acres of land. Once neither Mel nor the director could decide who the money should be granted to, the boys agreed that the fairest thing to do would be to meet together in order to come up with an agreement that would appease all the boys. After many hours of debate, they emerged and decided to purchase shoes, which were sorely needed for the kids who had to walk to the market or walk to school.

Rafiki_Callixte_-_Street_Youth_Work_by_Les_Enfants_de_Dieu_[Compatibility_Mode]     This link provides more information on how Enfants de Dieu makes a difference for the people of Kigali.

Who Cares?

This center is living proof that that the focus on teaching the skills advocated by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills  is a powerful and effective way of preparing our children for the real world. The EDD boys, who receive free education until Grade 8, but must pay $300USD to attend High School for 4 years, used their knowledge of core subjects to write their proposals, to discuss the pros and cons of each proposal, and to persuade their peers. They addressed the 21st century themes by being creative and innovative in designing a procedure by which they would make decisions. They identified their needs and proposed economical and environmentally friendly solutions that would help sustain their organization. They collaborated within their branches, effectively communicated their ideas, and eventually problem solved to come up with a mutually agreeable solution. The students accessed information by going directly to the people who had the answers – real people, and used the information they received from different sources to come up with a creative solution. They learned/lived core science concepts through their health and agriculture ministries. They learned/lived history and math through their administration and social affairs ministries.  And all of this happened with minimal use of technology. Imagine how they could have impacted our world, if the world was able to see real 21st century learning in action. When Alemu (2010) states, “School leaders must give due emphasis to informal observation and critically analyze and respond fittingly to signals that impact students’ preparedness, their global perspectives, and the school’s overall environment,” I think that he would give props to Raffiki (the center’s director), as he has done just that. Learning in the 21st century means it’s no longer enough to read about content, you must also experience  it.

Another Education Fad?

The EDD boys have the skills to become effective world leaders. And many of them aspire to do just that. So the question becomes, how does this style of learning happen so naturally in a place that is considered to be “developing,” yet it meets so much resistance in North America? George Manthey (2009) describes the backlash against the focus on teaching 21st century skills due to a fear that content learning will be lost. Manthey (2009) reassures the reader that content and skills are equally important to the Partnership for 21st century skills movement. Steven Sawchuk (2009) wrote about a school, currently a living example of 21st century learning, as students engage in authentic learning opportunities while learning relevant content. You can rest assured that the boys in Enfants de Dieu learn both content and skills at the their center. So the question remains, why IS there resistance to this movement? I hear the concerns of many, who argue that this might be yet another education fad, creating greater workload for teachers, without the appropriate financial, leadership, and time support. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills  , professional development, guidance, and support are being offered and have been adopted in 14 states.

What Does Our Future Hold for Teachers, for Students, and for Community?

Though the affirmation for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills movement seems obvious, let’s imagine what education might be like in 10 years, if the mission of education is, in fact, to prepare students with the skills necessary to be successful members of society. I envision all learning as holistic and focused on problems relevant to one’s community. Classrooms will function like a micro-society, where students determine their job/role  and their lines of inquiry. These roles will be flexible and students will be adaptable. The desired outcome of every “unit” of study will be to collaboratively come up with a reasonable solution upon which all parties agree. Learning will extend beyond the classroom and society will value and support the contributions made by our children. Reflection will be integral to learning the next step. And all of this will be made possible with web2.0, soon to be 3.0. The role of the educators will be to facilitate, guide, and integrate the learning of 21st century skills and relevant content into whatever lines of inquiry the students pursue. The responsibility of all educators, teachers and librarians alike, will be to use whatever technological means possible to ensure that our children learn and live the world around them. This will most definitely require a shift in mindset about what is important in education.


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

Hay, Lyn and Foley, Colleen. (May 2009). “School libraries building capacity for student learning in 21C.” School Libraries. 28;2. http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/assets/pdf/Schoollibraries21C.pdf

Manthey, George. (November/December 2009). “The Knowledge vs. Skills Debate: A False Dichotomy?” Leadership. 39;2. Proquest Education Journals. Pg.11.

Sawchuk, Steven. (January 2009). “’21st-Century Skills’ Focus Shifts W.Va. Teachers’ Role.” Edweek.org. http://www.edweek.org/login.html?source=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/01/07/16skills_ep.h28.html&destination=http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/01/07/16skills_ep.h28.html&levelId=2100


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)