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On INFOhio’s light
I’ve been a long-time fan of the work of INFOhio.
Back in November, at the Treasure Mountain research retreat that preceded AASL Columbus, I met the INFOhio team in person. I was sincerely inspired by their presentation, their energy and their efforts to ensure all Ohio learners have access to the resources to which they are entitled. I continue to be inspired by their efforts to ensure equity–to support all Ohio parents, teachers and librarians in developing college and career readiness and essential literacies and to ensure they know how to access and use the fabulous resources provided by their state.
The ISearch widget generator makes it easy for librarians and teachers to install a Discovery search approach to any website, making it so easy for users to find articles, ebooks, videos and more.
The embeddable Research4Success (R4S) Modules engaging scaffold the inquiry process for high school and early college students. Their archived webinars are useful for any librarians interested in professional development.
But there is so much more. You don’t necessarily have to be in Ohio to learn from INFOhio’s model and its resources.
Convinced the INFOhio program could inspire other state, city or regional efforts, I asked the team to share their experiences and insights in this post. They graciously agreed.
So, here’s the INFOhio backstory from INFOhio Ilibrarians Erica Clay, Emily Rozmus, and Brandi Young:
There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
INFOhio, Ohio’s PreK-12 Digital Library, knows how important it is to spread light–in knowledge and in leadership–by reaching out to the education community. The small, but mighty, INFOhio staff is composed primarily of former school librarians who work closely with many partners across the state, including regional Information Technology Centers, Educational Service Centers and Educational Technology Centers. In addition, school librarians have been, and continue to be, the best way to share information about the high-quality text and media and instructional tools that INFOhio delivers to all Ohio schools. Currently, school librarians are disappearing from staff lists, but recent national legislative actions have lit a new flame of hope in the school library windows.
INFOhio’s executive director, Terri Fredericka, began her career in school libraries, and has spent 30 years working to make sure every student in Ohio has the library tools and resources necessary for a successful future. Over the years, she has worked with her staff to develop initiatives that would help schools struggling without the research expertise, literacy knowledge and the instructional strength of a school librarian.
ICoaches and ILibrarians
Working with regional partners, INFOhio developed an ICoach (Instructional Coach) program to provide professional development and training for teachers and educational professionals. The ICoach program continues to grow as D/B ICoaches (District/Building ICoaches) are recruited and trained to instruct their peers in schools across the state.
Finally, INFOhio developed and initiated a pilot to create positions for three ILibrarians (Integration Librarians) who would identify areas of need and increase the audience for INFOhio’s statewide initiatives, delivering student- and educator-centered resources and support in a virtual environment.
What is novel about the ILibrarian pilot is the idea that librarians could work at a statewide level to effect real change for students and educators in schools that lack sufficient support in these areas. If the ILibrarian pilot was a success, it could serve as an innovative model to ensure that all Ohio students had the support and access to the tools to develop the reading literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, and college and career readiness skills needed to be successful in a technological society and an information economy.
The ILibrarian candidates were carefully selected based on their background, skill set, and experience.
Brandi Young worked as a high school English teacher and theater director and then as a middle school and elementary school library media specialist for seven years before coming to INFOhio to focus on digital literacy. In the past two years at INFOhio, Brandi created the Tech Skills for Online Testing PearlTree, which helps teachers find places for students to practice skills needed for online testing–everything from dragging and dropping to using an online protractor. She has also explored the best ways to support student achievement with new strategies such as MakerSpaces.
The MakerSpace movement is steadily growing within Ohio’s school libraries. INFOhio’s Guide on MakerSpaces, the MaKit, helps librarians make a case for creating a MakerSpace within their schools, learn low-cost ways to implement and market one, and keep current on new ideas for learning a MakerSpace. In correlation with the MaKit, Brandi also formed a community of Makers, educators who have already or are interested in starting a MakerSpace. Brandi also created a Digital Literacy Guide to help teachers find resources to help students develop digital citizenship, technology literacy, information literacy and media literacy. She also leads the Digital Literacy Task Force whose goal is to increase students’ technological literacy.
Having worked for more than 10 years in education as a teacher and an academic librarian, Erica Clay’s focus as an ILibrarian is on college and career readiness. Her work at INFOhio includes leading INFOhio’s College and Career Readiness Task Force and coordinating with university libraries to ensure students are ready for college-level research. She has created INFOhio Guides that help students and educators develop strategies for student success and use INFOhio electronic resources to meet Ohio Learning Standards. Erica works closely with INFOhio’s Technical Team to provide implementation support and instructional direction for ISearch, INFOhio’s statewide discovery tool. She also analyzes the use data of INFOhio electronic resources and web tools to determine which school districts may need additional support and which may have best practices to share. Emily Rozmus came to the ILibrarian position with 20 years of experience in education, first as a secondary English teacher and then as a PreK-12 librarian. With a Masters in Education, her knowledge of instruction, curriculum and literacy are strong, as well as her perspective of learning at all ages. Her focus quickly became early literacy and the alignment of INFOhio’s resources with standards and best practices. In her two years at INFOhio, Emily has created a task force to design a digital interface that meets the needs of young readers. She also works with partners to create create flyers and videos instructing reluctant reader parents on easy and fun ways to read with their children. Instructional “bags” or lesson plans that use INFOhio’s resources and best teaching practices are also part of Emily’s work.
Leveraging social media and spreading the word
Together, the ILibrarians developed a plan to create social networking content to bolster participation in INFOhio social media, thereby reaching more educators than ever before.
The ILibrarians manage the INFOhio Facebook presence, collaborate on INFOhio’s Twitter presence, and monitor how the use of the INFOhio social media channels affect the use of the INFOhio website and resources. Because of INFOhio’s outreach programs, awareness has grown, as has the use of INFOhio tools and resources. Over 240 school staff members have been trained as D/B ICoaches to provide in-house professional development on INFOhio’s databases, eBooks, and electronic tools since the beginning of the program three years ago. In the past school year, INFOhio staff, ICoaches, and D/B ICoaches have provided 34,851 hours of professional development training, which has resulted in increased use of electronic resources by 53%.
While INFOhio’s outreach programs have been effective in promoting instructional initiatives important to Ohio’s students, recent legislative budget cuts and other systemic changes have created new challenges. In response to those challenges, INFOhio has begun plans to adapt the ILibrarian pilot – establishing regional connections with schools, students and teachers in need of light in a shadowy atmosphere. In an educational climate in which uncertainty may create a momentary eclipse, Ohio schools can be sure that INFOhio will continue to spread light, reflecting the best practices, accessible tools and resources, and quality professional outreach essential for ensuring that every student is learning and growing.
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
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