“Successful reference services for school librarians consist of three components: 1) knowledge of the library media collection, electronic information resources, and tools; 2) effective conversational skills (communication); 3) competence in selecting, acquiring, and evaluating resources to meet students’ needs.” (Riedling,Shake & Houston, p.6)
Riedling, Shake & Houston (2013) believe that this success can be achieved only with “instruction or guidance in the use of information sources” (p.6). From my view point as a classroom teacher, I feel we, as a school, are lacking in the instruction of electronic reference resources; hence, in developing an Evaluation Plan on how I would (theoretically) improve the reference services in my school library resource centre, I decided to focus on the instruction of electronic reference resources for both staff and students.
- An analysis of the present conditions of my school’s electronic reference resources.
In analyzing our physical electronic resources, I can say that we do not, without any doubt in my mind, have adequate resources for our school; however, we do have 25 Chromebooks and 30 iPads to share (albeit amongst 440 students) and it is, at least something. I cannot change the type of funding given to our school for technological resources but, I can ensure that the technology we have is used to better the education of our students and staff.
As my school no longer has a print reference resource section we use the ERAC BC Digital Classroom bundle of resources purchased by the district (https://bcerac.ca/agreements/bc-digital-classroom-new/).
Interestingly, because of this incredibly vast bundle of resources, we are meeting at an “acceptable” level for a myriad of resources, such as, encyclopedias and periodicals, as deemed by the Canadian Association for School Libraries (2006). However, the problem remains that both teachers and students alike do not access these resources and this concern is the foundation for this evaluation plan.
- Develop a rationale for why this area needs to be changed and improved including how it is affecting student learning (use examples)
The rationale for developing understanding of how to use the digital resources available through our district ERAC bundle is simple: they provide children-friendly, verified information that is accessible from home and school while ensuring that teachers know that the information being accessed passes rigour, is appropriate for children and, for the most part, is unbiased.
In speaking with teachers and students at my school about what resources they access when researching, they all responded “the Internet” and 90% of them said that, presently, they seek information through crowd-sources sites, such as, Wikipedia.
Do I use Wikipedia? Yes, on a daily basis but, the difference between me using Wikipedia and a student are miles apart. I use it purely for pleasure, or verification of something I believe I already know, or sometimes as a jumping off point for further learning. I have been TAUGHT to not accept what I discover on Wikipedia as “gospel”. I do not cite information from it in academic papers, nor do I trust what is on it. Then, I bet you are wondering, why use it? Well, it’s easy and, for the most accurate. In 2010, “a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that Wikipedia had the same level of accuracy and depth in its articles about 10 types of cancer as the Physician Data Query, a professionally edited database maintained by the National Cancer Institute.” (Wolchover, 2011). Further research showed that, when compared to conventional encyclopedias, Wikipedia fared well in other studies by the Library Journal, PC Pro Magazine, and the Canadian Library Associate to name but three. (Wolchover, 2011). None of this means, however, that I would teach my students to trust in the information but, I would teach them how to verify the information’s validity. Per Harris (2007),“it would be much more productive to teach colleagues, students, and parents how to best use Wikipedia” using the following three steps to Wiki research which really should apply to ALL research:
1) A minimum of three sources required to verify research.
2) Use Wikipedia only as a starting place
3) Serious research projects/academic papers should not cite general knowledge/crowd-sourced encyclopedias (Harris, 2007).
Riedling, Shake & Houston (2013) say, “The information issue today is not related to access or quantity. It’s more a matter of being able to effectively navigate the sea of information to obtain desired answers from authoritative sources.” Taking this to heart, the plan below is developed to teach students and teachers how to effectively access information through navigation of our ERAC digital bundle, focusing predominantly of the reference resources that apply to elementary school learning.
Based on the “Typical Expressions of Concern about an Innovation” taken from the “Concerns Based Adoption Model” and in speaking with the 3 other teachers, from primary to intermediate grades, in my school they expressed the following levels of concern and innovation respectively:
Teacher A – Level 0 – Aware if the resource but not concerned about it; she felt that book resources could serve the research purpose just as well. Subsequently, her behavior was also Level 0 – non-use and she was not concerned about learning new technology.
Teacher B – Level 1 – Information and he would like to know more about it. Behaviourally, he is at the orientation level and has already asked me to show him how to access the resources and requested mentoring on how the online resources can support in-class learning, jumping him into the preparation level of use.
Teacher C – very much like teacher B. She determined that she was at a Level 1 expression of concern, although she does not where to find the resources and has used them herself for planning units. Concerning levels of innovation, I feels she spans across three levels from 1-3 and is looking toward seeing how the resources can enhance her teaching program.
This paper is not a study of these three teachers but the purpose of speaking with them was to understand a possible cross-section what to expect if I get the opportunity to implement the education plan below. It allowed me to see that teachers are at varying levels of concern and willingness to try new innovation which would help me in the development of my instructional ideas.
After explaining to the teachers that, with these available databases, students could be taught research and critical literacy skills which would benefit inquiry-based learning, I then asked them one last question: “If I were to teach classes in your classrooms that focused on how to access our ERAC online digital resources, would you partake in the class with your students, and learn along with them?” Since all three gave a resounding “yes”, it allowed me to develop one educational plan that would benefit both students and teachers.
- Include a step-by-step plan based solely on accessing databases from the ERAC BC Digital Bundle:
I feel that setting a specific timeline would be restrictive to all parties concerned. As a classroom teacher, I often need to find time to work around my TL and I am aware that he is doing the same for me. If I were “forced” to pick a deadline, then I would choose to have the students at a level of comfort in accessing these databases by the end of the first term; but, alas, the best laid plans of teachers and TLs often go awry!
The Plan – The beginning
I hesitate to quote Julie Andrews but “Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.” Many students and teachers are not aware of where they access these databases so, I would show them two portals from which they can be accessed (district and school – learning commons).
Have them explore through following-the-leader (the TL) then later try exploring through a pre-made scavenger hunt that asks them to seek out various databases and their hosts (i.e. EBSCO or GALE) to find certain information.
The key to “the beginning” is to demonstrate to students that the information they are seeking is readily accessible, appropriate, available in French at their language-levels and verified.
The Plan – The Middle
Now that teachers and students have explored the district databases over several classes and have achieved a greater level of comfort with these digital resources, the time comes to refer to the Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada (2014), to see how fostering digital literacy can empower life-long learning along the continuum from “exploring” to “leading into the future”.
Children and adults need to be taught to be digital leaders and citizens which includes, learning how to become digitally literate – knowing how to critically think, share information, draw conclusions, make informed decisions, ask meaningful questions and solve significant problems.
There needs to be discussions around ways to seek information and the differences between using databases, such as “World Book” and “Wikipedia”. What are the pros and cons? What makes one more reliable than the other? What is the value to seeking the same information from varying sources? What is plagiarism and how does it affect teachers and students?
The Plan – The End? Well, there is never really an end…
How can this new knowledge support learning of both the teachers and the students? If students and teachers have begun to foster the skills of a digitally literate citizen, then they have the basic building blocks of knowledge to develop or support inquiry-based learning through which more skills, such as cultural and informational digital literacy, can be reinforced (…there is never really an end…).
With guidance, support and a certain level of confidence, students and teachers can find ways to improve both student learning and engagement through the integration of technology, and sometimes it can be as simple as knowing how to use an online Altas or look up a biography on Culturagrams. Teaching and learning can be transformed where the learner starts to seek answers to questions related to his/her interests; thus, being digitally supported in the construction of new learning, resulting in self-initiated and self-directed education.
There are so many names because the “right” name would rely on the outcome (success or lack thereof) of the evaluation plan. Of course there are certain things to consider, such as, lack of teacher buy-in as not all teachers feel comfortable having a fellow colleague instruct their classes. There may also be some kinks to work out when looking at teacher-librarian time and how much is available for collaboration/in-class support and, then there is always the issue of reserving the technology when it is in such demand and we have little to go around. I do, however, choose to look at the glass half full and see the potential in developing with at least some classes, the beginnings of digitally literate citizens. In schools, the proverbial grapevine is a wonderful thing and if word gets out about how some students are developing their critical skills through digital literacy instruction, then one can only hope that others might want to jump on that band wagon!
Asselin, M., Branch, J., & Oberg, D., (Eds). (2006). Achieving information literacy: Standards for school library programs in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Canadian School Library Association & The Association for Teacher-Librarianship in Canada. Retrieved from http://accessola2.com/SLIC-Site/slic/ail110217.pdf
Canadian Library Association (CLA). (2014). Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons. Retrieved from http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/
Common Sense Media. (n.d.). What Are the Deep Web and the Dark Web? Retrieved from Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/privacy-and-internet-safety/what-are-the-deep-web-and-the-dark-web
ERAC Retrieved from https://bcerac.ca/bcdc-access/
Harris, Chris. “Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia?”. School Library Journal ; New York Vol. 53, Iss. 6, (Jun 2007): 26.
Loucks-Horsley, S. (2005). The Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM): A Model for Change in Individuals. Retrieved from The National Academies: http://www.nationalacademies.org/rise/backg4a.htm
Riedling, A., Shake, L. & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school library media specialist: Tools and tips, (Third Edition). Santa Barbara, CA: Linworth.
Wolchover, N. (January 24, 2011). How accurate is Wikipedia? Retireved from https://www.livescience.com/32950-how-accurate-is-wikipedia.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.