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Top School Library Things to Think About in 2008

I was inspired by all those other lists: Dave’s Top Ten Educational StoriesStephen Abram’s 30 Library Technology Predictions, Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education, the products and start-ups listed the 2007 Crunchies, Mashable’s New Years Resolutions for Geeks, EdTechTalk Yearly 07, and many others. 

I was so inspired, I felt the need to reflect myself.

I went through my posts since this blog started back in June, and I culled the major themes–those themes with legs, those that excite me with their possibilities, those that keep me up at night. 

I present my own highly subjective list of things school librarians, and other educators and librarians need to consider deeply in the coming year:

Communication options and AUDIENCE, global audience.  The end-product of research and inquiry should be communication of knowledge.  And the options for communication exploded this year. PowerPoint, as we once knew it as a sleep-inducing presentation option, should be dead.  We can reform PowerPoint for presentation and we can explore a wealth of other creative Web-based presentation options. (See Digital Storytelling and Reforming PowerPoint links.)  VoiceThread is just one powerful option with nearly no learning curve. Projects like the Flat Classroom Project demonstrate that learning has social context and our students can engage in discussion with peers, mentors, experts, other classrooms around the world.  Our school’s research blogging experience tells me that blogging is an effective strategy for making the research process more interactive and transparent and for managing and reflecting on the process. Our student-produced video efforts engaged our learners in meaningful opportunities to share their new knowledge.

We must guide our school communities to discover and test these new opportunities and learn to share their work.

Knowledge/authority arguments.  Andrew Keen’s Cult of the Amateur argues that Web 2.0’s user-generated content threatens mainstream media and our larger culture as well. He argues that authors and artists should be paid for their work and he questions our growing reliance on unsigned Web content. 

Many of us who see the value of blogs, wikis, and social networking in learning recognize that middle ground exists. How do we help learners negotiate this friction between traditional and new media? What place does the collective wisdom of the crowd play in research? How do we evaluate blogs and wikis and shared video sites? How do we guide students to the quality they often ignore? Can Wikipedia and Google results and commercial databases and books in all their glorious formats be part of a learner’s research toolkit?  These new issues in evaluation were recently explored (by many with authority) in the Britiannica Blog Web 2.0 ForumDigital Media, Youth, and Credibility, a new MacArthur report by Frances Jacobson Harris explores new issues relating to teaching credibility.

Copyright/copyleft/fair use.  I’ll admit that I’ve never been more confused over issues relating to fair use than I have been this year. In a world where everyone is publishing, mixing, mashing, recreating, those old guidelines seem, well–hopelessly old.  Creative Commons licensing offers attractive solutions for content creators and our student users and re-creators, and we must lead them in that direction.  (A new presentation on the Creative Commons wiki might be useful in spreading the word.)

We must also follow efforts to clarify and redefine fair use.  The recent MacArthur Foundation study, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, documents confusion among the education community and strongly recommends that, educators articulate their shared understandings of fair use in a national code of practice, a code that would guide us as we use copyrighted materials in our teaching. 

Open source and free Web-based applications change the way we do business in education.  They mean equity.  They mean access.  Whether we are using Koha as a free catalog, a variety of new concept mapping tools, or image tools, or Zoho or Google Docs for producing presentations, spreadsheets, and regular old documents, we can get by without a lot of commercial software. The spirit of open source sharing is clearly moving to the academic sharing, with efforts like MIT Open Courseware and the OER Commons.  We need to ensure that teachers and learners discover these new tools.  How can we ensure they become part of our collections?  And it wouldn’t hurt if our students and faculties joined the spirit by contributing the best of their own knowledge creations.

Intellectual freedom and filtering: Over the next year we continue to negotiate access to resources.  The new front, the big divide, is Web 2.0.  Some students have a far fuller and richer read/write Web than others.  Some learners have no interactive Web experience at all. In some cases, teachers and administrators block access simply by being unaware of the value of new media resources and tools.

Our students laugh at our efforts to filter their Web (as demonstrated by Australian student Tom Wood.)  House spending bill HR 4314 may be a step in the right direction, promoting education, rather than filtering, as a powerful strategy for Internet safety.

Articulating our new roles and being able to do them:  We have to negotiate the roles, as well as the value of school librarians in school cultures that have grown to include reading, academic, and technology coaches. We want to hear fewer stories like those coming in from Washington state where library positions are lost in cost cutting.

I played with a manifesto of new roles this year.  The bottom line is that we must retool if we are to be viable technology integration leaders within our schools. Efforts like California School Library Association’s School Library Learning 2.0 (23 Things) have gone a long way toward helping us retool.  Professional development is so much more accessible when it is streamed through such sites as:

If passed, the SKILLS Act will help validate our roles. (Update from AASL President Sara Kelly Johns: The SKILLs Act is on hold until NCLB is reauthorized, but there is still the need to ask legislators to sponsor the legislation because NCLB WILL be reauthorized (with a lot of revision) and we want to be in it!)  

We also need to keep an eye on how our presidential candidates view NCLB. The blogs and the news media, including EdWeek, will continue to buzz with summaries. 

New strategies for information seeking and gathering: This year, I recognized how impossible it is for any individual to make sense of his or her information choices. It was the year I began seriously considering the inportance of my pathfinders and the year I converted many of them to wiki format (for easier editing and collaboration).  It was also the year I recognized the importance of helping students establish their own personal information portals using feed readers and portal-creation tools like iGoogle, PageFlakes, or Yahoo! Widgets.
In Command!, a new book by Robin Williams and David Loertscher (Hi Willow, 2007), explores what it looks like when young people control their information spaces.

Standards: We were given two new sets of standards. AASL unvieled Standards for the 21st-Century Learner at the conference in Reno.  ISTE delivered its Educational Technology Standards for Students at NECC back in June.

NETS standards focus on six areas of skills and expertise, with far less emphasis on technology tools:

  • creativity and innovation;
  • communication and collaboration;
  • research and information fluency;
  • critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making;
  • digital citizenship; and
  • technology operations and concepts

The AASL standards describe how learners use skills, resources, and tools to

  1. inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge;
  2. draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge;
  3. share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society;
  4. pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

In my mind, both sets of standards resonate.  They emphasize the need to help learners communicate, collaborate, solve problems, create, participate.  They ask us to expand our teaching of traditional information and technology literacies.  They ask us to be more creative and collaborative.

Update: A provocative discussion is developing on LM_NET.  Practioners question the new standards, their relationship to teach-ability and assess-ability, and their connection to student achievement.  See Sharon Grimes’ reflective essay and its comments on the AASL Blog.

Among the questions:  Are the standards too vague?  Could they more clearly address growingly complex information skills? Can belief statements drive instruction? Are they connected enough to the information-seeking process models?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Larry Ferlazzo says:

    Now this is a list of thoughtful end-of-year reflections. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. MochaGirl says:

    Wow–this is a list of reflections that really inspires. So concise! THANK YOU!

  3. av2learner says:

    Right on, Joyce. I’m in awe of your ability to give us such great reflections. Thanks.

  4. Just this morning at our high school leadership, we were discussing faculty who don’t know how to complete a powerpoint, but require it of their students. I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who agrees powerpoint is boring and dead! Now some faculty can skip that rendition of presenting and go to Web 2.0!

  5. Jim Lerman says:

    Wonderful reflection Joyce. Much wisdom and great food for thought. Thank you so much.
    One point however, NCLB will, in all probability, not be rewritten until we have a new president. Ted Kennedy effectively killed the rewriting process this fall and the bill is probably now dead until after the Nov. 08 election. There may be a vote for financing of the current bill for a year, but there won’t be any rewriting of the legislation in this administration, imho.

  6. peri monte says:

    what about libraries as we know them becoming obsolete. When media and text can be stored in a space one tenth the size of a book filled library and accessed from a computer in ones home, doesnt the space to house books loose its effectivness?

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