Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology: A Necessary Tool for Information Literacy


Information literacy, the ability to access, evaluate, organize and use information from a variety of sources, is a necessary component of education that must be implemented in curriculum for maximum student success. Though there are many different mediums through which to gain access to information, a major tool used in today’s school systems other than the printed word is technology through the use of computers. Why this shift?  According to Holly Barton, in her article “Information “Literacy: Learning How to Learn”, the use of technology “provides acquisition to greater volume and depth of information than was ever possible before”(Barton, 2009, p.2). This has made it vital to educators, teachers and librarians alike, to shift the way they allow students to engage in learning.

If schools and libraries were incapable of providing technology, then it would be near impossible to create the type of lifelong learners that we envision our world to be full of in the future. Technology has allowed us to shift from direct instruction to discovery by “doing”, from teacher centered to learner centered activities, from learning as torture to learning as fun, and from teacher as transmitter to teacher as facilitator. When this type of learning is established, we are creating students who learn faster and more in depth, which is more motivating and encouraging for students, teachers and parents. (Barton, 2009)) Technology for information literacy is necessary for both schools and libraries to help our youth master the critical thinking process.


What does this mean for schools?


Schools will have to be capable of providing technology to make it possible to produce information literate students and it will have to begin at the earliest grades. In her article “Understanding Information Literacy”, Barbara Humes insists that students need to learn early on “how to learn” so that they can be independent seekers of information throughout their lives. In order to do this, teachers of all subjects must “blend their traditional fact-based approach with an emphasis on learner-based inquiry and the scientific inquiry process” (as cited in Lennox, 1993). This is more of a self-discovery type learning that would be beneficial for the student to master.

The fight for information literacy is being tackled on all fronts in the school as well. This isn’t just a job for the teacher. The principal is at the forefront of the process and is to advance resource-based learning by providing ample planning time and a respectable budget. Humes also cites, “As instructional partners, the classroom teacher and library media specialist are actively involved in identifying the learning needs of the students, developing teaching units that facilitate activities which offer meaningful practice in using a variety of information resources, and guiding student progress” (as cited in Wisconsin Educational Media Association, 1993). With all of these positions hard at work, information literacy is something that a school should be able to accomplish. Schools can become a place where learning is fun and teachers act as facilitators more than anything. The idea is to get the ball rolling for the students and allow them to take it from there.


What does this mean for libraries?


            As more schools make this shift to include information literacy in the curriculum, we will see a more active role for librarians. This type of learning will create a demand for varied media sources, and in turn will create the need for staff to re-evaluate how money is disseminated between text books and library media resources. Not only will school libraries be affected, but public libraries will have more responsibilities as well. They will have to work harder to keep up with what the surrounding schools are studying to ensure that students and parents will be able to locate necessary materials outside of the school atmosphere. Librarians will also be called upon more frequently than ever to provide guidance to teachers and learners to facilitate information literacy and lifelong learning. (Humes, 2003)

            Librarians will have the opportunity to use their skills to the fullest to help these kids succeed. Imagine walking into your public library and seeing students hard at work with their local librarians. You might see the hustle and bustle of excited students searching through information and sharing it with each other while looking to the librarian for verification. You might also see siblings helping each other become problem solvers through the use of media equipment, maybe even with the help of mom or dad. This is what a community library should look like, especially when we are promoting life long learning.



Something to consider:

Schools are currently cutting media specialists and replacing them with non-certified people to save money. How will this affect the progress of information literacy in schools?


Barton, H. Information Literacy: Learning How to Learn.  Rhode Island Network for Education Technology.  Retrieved on October 20, 2009, from

Humes, Barbara. Understanding information literacy. Retrieved on November 15, 2009,  from

Plotnick, Eric. Information Literacy. Retrieved on November 15, 2009, from





Craig Buno said...

I think one of the big affects switching out the media person for someone cheaper and less qualified will be the overall result they produce.

Such as the children not getting the products fast enough because the unqualified replacement has to learn it first. Also they might not be aware of the full capabilities of a specific application and therefore won't be able to show the full power of the new tool they are teaching to the kids.

Amy Alcenius said...

You get what you pay for. If the school cuts costs by not hiring a trained librarian, students could miss out on resources. However, it might also open up opportunities for the teacher-turned-librarian by introducing a new career and new interests. While initially the appointment might cause some problems, it is not always a fatal flaw.

DJ said...

The district I work for has not even tried to fill the vacancy of the person who retired that was in charge of all DPS media centers. They would rather save the money and leave it vacant. Plus they won't place a person inside a school that doesn't have a media specialist. They don't value what we have to offer.

Unknown said...

As a former teacher, I agree, kids need to "learn how to learn" and when the teacher is required to teach to high-stakes standardized tests, that is often left out. Libraries could be vital in this area.

kbankovich said...

Replacing media specialists with non-certified people would have a negative impact on the progress of information literacy in schools because without the proper training, students would not be exposed to cutting edge technologies and might not reach their maximum potential. Students rely on media specialists to teach them the latest in software developments. Non-certified people may not have all the necessary skills.

In May 2009 Michigan’s Troy School District proposed cutting several media specialist positions. Seven of the district’s media specialists posted their opinions on what these cuts would mean to students. The opinions state, research across the United States has shown that students in schools with full-time school librarians learn more, get better grades and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without full-time librarians. The students and staff rely on the literacy and media skills along with technology competencies taught by professional media specialists to be successful and competitive in the 21st century workplace.


Parker, Julee, (2009). Media Specialists Critical Part of Learning (Peer commentary on the
article “Troy School Budget Cuts Target Library Positions” by Cristina Venditelli).
Retrieved from

J Moses said...

It seems to be an unfortunate wave of events that could lead to the dismanteling of media specialist in schools. On the surface, it may appear that the media specialist is nothing more than story hour and a release for teacher prep time. Now, more than ever, in times of budget cuts, it is imperative that media specialist start doing what they do best. They need to weave their talents into the fabric of the schools by bringing forth their talents in technology, research and literature. This is a dangerous time for a media specialist to be complacent. It's time to strut our stuff!

William Zunich said...

This will affect the progress of information literacy in the classroom. This will plac ethe burden back on to subject matter professionals. Teachers will have to search out ways to teach/incorporate these new skills into their classrooms. In my current school district, the librarian, whose position was elminated for 2009-2010, always took control of the research project for the 7th and 8th. He would show them how to search online, find credible sites, varify the information, uses of word/publsiher. It is a great loos for the students.