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My grad students’ questions

I launched a new online course for the Mansfield University’s SL&IT program this fall.

Information Fluency for Digital Landscapes is designed to provide school librarian candidates with opportunities to identify, evaluate, and thoughtfully integrate current and emerging information and communication technologies to promote inquiry and learning in the K12 environment.

While most of my 15 students are excited about the experiences/adventures we are having and the networks we are building, both within our class and beyond, a few questions continue to emerge on a regular basis and I wanted to share my reaction and my response.

With permission, I use one student’s email to me as a prototype;

I just looked at the slide show of Kuhlthau’s ISP.  In this show I saw me in this class!  I’ve felt seriously overwhelmed. The uncertainty before learning something new . . .

Part of my frustration has nothing to do with the course.

I’m having trouble realizing how I’d apply what we’re doing in the course to my life in the classroom. Certainly everything in here is AWESOME and very usable. In my district we often face: we can’t do that /we don’t have that /why should we do that?

  • A few examples: Pinterest is blocked in our district
  • GoogleDocs used to be available, but is now blocked.
  • We used YouTube extensively, but it’s now labeled as adult by our filtering software.
  • Our district declared that we’d only have one online database this year because they’re expensive.
  • I want to feel that I can do this! This is all good stuff! I find myself sort of bobbing in the water but not having a direction. You examples and enthusiasm have been such an inspiration! I just feel stuck.

Do you have any advice you can offer? I really appreciate it!

Student X

Dear Student X,

My advice is patience.  And when the moment is right, leadership.

I don’t know what your district/school looks like, but we are, all of us, on the cusp of a great shift, however your administrators may resist it.

You have to learn what is out there and why it is valuable before you can effectively advocate for change.

You are facing issues of equity.  Frankly, I don’t know how our district could function without the tools we ourselves use as adult learners in this class.  Google Apps are staples for us.  They are go-to collaboration tools that our students incorporate whether or not we suggest them. Your business students should have access.  Imagine what they could/might do or reinvent with Google Forms and the variety of templates available!

Granted, some of the tools we are using, Pinterest, for example, may be more useful for your own professional development than for use with kiddos.  Use them yourself.  (Although I might argue that if the topic is say, marketing, your students might find some pretty compelling visual resources there.)

Most of these new tools or tool types have educational versions or counterparts with varying levels of protection and privacy.

The brainstorming, organization, notetaking, writing, digital storytelling tools, curation, and so many others tools my own students use, are too good for you to pass on.

Those databases offer direct, grade-appropriate support for your curriculum and stay way fresher than your textbooks.

When the moment is right, as the librarian, you will need to lead the battle/wave the banner as an intellectual freedom issue.

Think of your experience in this class as building your own personal capacity to be able to do this down the road a bit.

Test the waters. Jump in and get wet.  Brush off that stuff that has no value.

Your success has everything to do with your own dispositions.

Gather confidence and skills.  Have patience.  Your turn to lead will come and you need to be ready to recognize it.

I don’t want to prepare you for yesterday’s library.

I promise you the tide will turn.  You should have a role in turning it.


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. “I don’t want to prepare you for yesterday’s library.” Should be the mantra of every library science instructor at al levels!


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