Has CILIP got an ulterior motive?

So over the last week I’ve had a number of emails and phone calls in support of my post around Cilip’s idea of a Kitemark. In my post I highlight some of reasons that I worry it is not only a idea born out of a short sighted view of school libraries but that actually it also highlights CILIP and SLG’s distance from the main issues surrounding schools and their libraries and also with the education sector itself.
However, more I think about it the more wonder if CILIP has an ulterior motive behind this idea. It comes as no surprise to say that the world of school libraries is in dire straights and so are the the bodies that used to support and take care of them in their local areas. Too many school library services over the last few years have been closed unceremoniously leaving school libraries and school librarians in a unprecedented situation where not only do they not have the exporters and ‘bigger picture’ view a service has but also the advocacy and support that a service can provide. For instance when I worked in Herts we worked with and campaigned the head teachers to make sure that in our secondary schools a quality (not necessarily qualified!!!) librarian was employed.
Therefore my worries and concerns are that CILIP are trying to put themselves in a position where they feel they can greedily fill this need in schools. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cilip’s idea of a Kitemark allows CILIP to visit schools in a critical friend type way and charge them (handsomely no doubt) for the priveledge of providing a report on their quality and the offering further services to ‘bring them up to scratch’. 
Now this may also be quite controversial (but if you can’t express your opinions then what’s the point of freedom of press) but there are certain school librarians who have favour with CILIP and also find themselves in a position of being able to offer services as they will no longer be working in schools. It would not surprise me if these two points also linked together. There are definitely some people that are trying to create a little niche for themselves and with this there will always come a great sense of personal gain coming before anything else.

Ther are also many reasons why I feel those people that no longer work in schools let alone school libraries should not offer advice to those still working in schools. Mainly as soon as you leave a school you become out of touch with education no matter how many blogs or journals you read, but also if you never really understood it in the first place you’re only ever going to provide services based on your own, biased, opinions and of course if you were any good in the first place you’d probably still be working in a school?!? 
Whether or not this is the case though I certainly would feel disgusted if CILIP ever tried to do anything anything like this. They are an organisation that we pay our fees to to support us on a bigger stage to take the time to understand us and show us that not only do they ‘get us’ but they are on our side. Never have I felt this as a school librarian and at the moment I feel it even less than ever. They are devoid of any original ideas, of any understanding of the education sector and what is truly needed. They seem to rely too heavily on the views of a few school librarians who themselves work from such a narrow, out dated view that we end up with ideas such a Kitemark!!
On the outside, to just a normal member, CILIP seems to not only have lost its way but also its integrity as an organisation. Outside of school libraries they are so many things that highlight this. Have you looked at their great idea of their impact model?? One system that supposedly works for all sectors and allows a librarian to show the worth of what they do, it’s them same as their PKSB or whatever it’s called. You cannot create model that works for everyone! In doing so you create an unwieldy document/view that is so watered down (to meet everyone’s differing needs) that it becomes useless or even worse ignores those specific sector’s needs that are just a little outside of the norm, school libraries being a great example!!
Back to Cilip’s Kitemark, which by all accounts seems to have an extremely short timeframe in its consultation stage and stinks again of CILIP just wanting to follow through their own agenda no matter what people think. From what I’ve heard this consultation relies on a couple of people asking their head teachers what they think (no doubt these are headteachers that already support their libraries, otherwise CILIP wouldn’t know about the librarians) and their very leading survey. There’s already been a lot of support on SLN for it, again from ‘those librarians’ with a narrow, out-dated view of school libraries but from those librarians, whose views I actually agree with, I’ve also had a lot of correspondence about their dismay towards such an idea.
We can only hope that CILIP see sense and abandon such a foolhardy idea but also in the long run that they abandon those ‘school librarians’ or former school librarians who are feeding them with a diatribe of utter rubbish that CILIP comes up with such a poor idea. It’s time they actually started to listen to people that know what they’re talking about start to do what we all hope and importantly pay for, i.e provide an organisation that actually has our best interests at heart.

Why Cilip’s ‘kite mark’ will crash and burn

Another day another CILIP survey. It seems they spend more money on surveys that are aimed at leading the questionee than actually doing anything of any worth.
Anyway, today’s survey was around Cilip’s ‘groundbreaking’ idea of introducing a ‘Kitemark’ for schools to aim towards to show that they value their school library.
This is clearly part of the CILIP strategy to reinvigorate support in school libraries or something rather?!? Yet to anyone that actually knows the education sector it is actually another example of how out of touch they are with this particular sector and how they are scrambling around for ‘any old idea’ rather than doing something that might have value and worth.
I have a number of issues with the idea of a ‘Kitemark’ of such but I will name below the ones I feel most important here. With my concerns I’m not just talking from a school Librarian’s perspective but also a member of the senior leadership team and a school leader.
1. ‘Kitemarks’ are so last season. 

Around 5-10 years ago the idea of Kitemarks were quite big in schools and schools collected them to look pretty in their foyers and on their headed letter paper to outsiders. Heads of departments or those staff wishing to make a step up into middle leadership took them on as projects to show that they had the ability to organise whole school priorities. We pretty much had one of these marks for everything. The problem is now they actually mean very little and lost a lot of favour with schools mainly due to the fact they never made a difference to anything (see point 2). In fact the take up of these marks in recent years has dropped so dramatically, especially with their being so many bigger priorities in schools, that some of the bigger ‘marks’ no longer exist. Case in point the Governor mark which filled a number of Ofsted priorities no longer exists and this was one mark that actually showed some value!! 

So with CILIP thinking that this is going to solve all the problems of school libraries is really showing more about their lack of understanding of the sector (and more worryingly SLG’s if they have been involved in this) rather than a proactive statement for improvement.
2. They have no lasting impact. Due to the fact that schools took these marks on to fill an area highlighted by SIPs or Ofsted as weaknesses or areas of development or taken on by wannabe middle leaders they were only ever short term projects. The international schools award, which many schools went for, had a very wide remit where realistically you just had to put together a couple of things that may have some international link with some school maybe in Kenya to be awarded it. But it never had to have any legacy, anything that made any true difference or added value. Many schools who had been told to broaden their community cohesion or their widen their students understanding of different cultures took this, and a hat full of other ones, to prove that actually they were. However, they were only one off projects and once completed made no difference to the fundamentals of a school or more importantly of students’ learning and their thoughts and opinions. If you asked a student about a schools international award they’d probably tell you about a letter they wrote to school in Africa but not why or how it’s widened their horizons on a daily basis.

So with a school library the exact same would occur. It would only ever be a short term thing, if any schools actually took it on in the first place, and certainly not anything that would have any long lasting impact on the school or in particular the school library or librarian.

3. You can’t pigeon hole success. The thing about school libraries, which is known to those of us that visit them across the width and breadth of the country, is that there is no formula for a successful school library. What makes one school library a success won’t necessarily make another one. The only common factor is that each school library that is successful is reflective and in touch with the specific needs of their individual school and their intake and even this means that processes and projects change as often as the intake does. Therefore, in creating a mark for school libraries who is to say what the criteria is going to be? How can you come up with a set of criteria when realistically one doesn’t and cannot exist. You would have to make your points so generic that by their very nature they become open to all sorts of interpretations that they blend into a mess of meaningless words. 

In trying to create a mark all you would end up succeeding in is foisting someone else’s opinions on what a school library should be and alienating all the school libraries and librarians that do things differently or outside the norm so they fit into the needs of their school and their students. What you could end up doing is rewarding the basic and ignoring the truly innovative successful ones.

4. Only those schools who already support their library will do it.

What is the hook for a school taking on the mark? Surely the point is to change those schools’ perceptions of a school library and librarian where one or both doesn’t exist. If we want to get those schools who don’t invest in their libraries to see the positive impact that a library has then a mark like this is certainly not the way. The only schools that will take them on will be ones that already back their library and already value their librarian. Someone who doesn’t isn’t suddenly going to change their minds about their school’s values and ethos just because some Kitemark exists! So if that’s the case then why bother spending time, moment and resources that will look lovely but have no impact on changing anything. 

5. I don’t think the CILIP guidelines or SLG represent or understand all school libraries. Now I may be a little contraversial here however I do not think that the CILIP guidelines, which the Kitemark will be based upon, by any stretch of the imagination reflect successful school libraries that exist in schools now. They are incredibly dry Andis my opinion give a view of libraries that is stuck in the past. Having visited thousands of libraries across the country and world these guidelines in no way reflect all the excellent practise that exist in some schools and importantly it is these schools that are doing things differently, outside the box, that make them a success. They are ripping up the old models of school libraries and listening instead to what their schools and students need and they are adapting their spaces, their practice and their own mindsets to be the place their school needs them to be. No where is this reflected in a document that is going to purportedly be the basis for this excellence in school libraries, this Kitemark.

Worryingly I’d even go as far to say that I do not feel that the organisations that ‘speak’ for school libraries understand what actually makes a successful one. I have very little faith in them providing a picture of everyone to work towards and more than this I fear that if the people involved with CILIP get the opportunity to create any kind of guidelines then school libraries are doomed.

Why digital is definitely not superior

So recently on the school librarian forum SLN there was a thread about digital collections, moving away from print content, thinking spaces!?! (yes don’t get me started!) etc etc and someone made a comment along the lines that digital content is superior to print content in every measurable.
Well this is certainly a big statement to make and one that immediately annoyed me somewhat. 
Firstly, my main annoyance was around the fact that a comment like this goes full against what a library actually is and what it is for. Any library and librarian worth their salt knows that a library should contain in it a mixture of everything that meets the differing needs of its users. Not everyone wants to access things in the same way and we need to be understanding and responsive of/to this. By having just one point of access to information or reading we go against the whole ethos of a library and we do those we are supposed to be providing a service to a great disservice.
If someone chooses to create their library in this way then they are doing so not with their customers at the forefront of their mind but instead with a reasoning only to satisfy and promote their own misguided (for that is what it really is) viewpoint.
Digital content isn’t something that everyone wants to use in the first place to get their content. It’s the same reason why people are realising the whole thing wrong with learning styles is that we don’t just learn via one way. If we take a VAK test and it tells us we prefer to do (kinesthetic) to learn it doesn’t mean that that is all we should then engage with, it means that sometimes doing helps us to learn better. But by taking away the other options to learn we actually disable the ability to learn not improve it. This is the same with only having very limited and narrow collections in our libraries.

Secondly I have a really issue with everyone believing that we live in a world where digital content is so easy to come by. Yes a large percentage of the population has access to some sort of device but in our schools this may equate to access that is shared amongst 3,4,5 family members at any one time. It doesn’t matter what research you might do in your school to determine the type of access students have as you can’t know that the 80% that tell you have access to a device are a. telling the truth, b. understanding that you mean access at any time and c. know what you mean at all! Even if they do get all this and do have access it certainly doesn’t then mean that this is how they want/need to access information.

Digital print, the Internet and the Google generation has now been around long enough for some serious research to go into how we access information in print and digital format and this brings me onto to my third reason as to why I was upset by the initial comment made about the superiority of digital content. As time goes on there are more schools of thinking around the detrimental effect that digital information seeking has on the human brain and in particular on memory. This particular piece of research http://academicearth.org/electives/internet-changing-your-brain/ is not only extremely interesting but also very worrying. 
From all the research I have undertaken myself on the reading brain this makes perfect sense and there is tons more of it out there underlying how digital print is actually having, when it comes to information, an extremely detrimental effect and impact on student learning.

So this piece of research is concerned with Google in particular but it also highlights how our belief that digital print is somehow better is misguided in the least. We’ve all been there when we’ve got so fed up of reading a piece of information on the screen for the umpteenth time that we just decide to print it instead as we know we’ll be able to take it in, digest it better. What research is telling us is that when we read digitally our minds are only taking all the information into our short term memory but are not firing those neurons to link this to the ‘velcro’ of our long term memory. We are just seeing this information on the surface and that is it. We all know that for learning to actually take place we need this link to our long term memory yet as our brains are changing to our over exposure to digital print this isn’t happening we aren’t taking it in the same way and learning it we are simply ‘knowing it’ and only for a short period of time.
It’s actually something librarians should be very worried about. Especially those in schools who base a lot of their texts as e-resources. The place that heralds itself as furthering student learning could in fact be the place that is doing more harm. 
As the people that are supposedly trying to help young people understand, access and learn from information those that rely heavily on digital resources, especially in favour of hard copy resources are fundamentally not only going against the very fabric of library ethos but could potentially be doing more harm than good.

OPUS a new information and learning model

OPUS model

 

OPUS is my new model for learning and information that integrates both of those important parts of school life. Although both learning and finding information are two of the most vital areas in school there is no model that links the two together even though there are so many aspects that run through both. To find information is to learn and to learn is to do so through the finding of information.

Maybe it’s because no one has ever viewed bothy of these in the same light together or those that view learning don’t think/know about information literacy and vice versa. In fact this may just be the case and you’ll agree if you work as a school librarian where on a day to day basis you see the ignorance of information literacy and the important role it plays!

However, this model is a potential catalyst for more discussion around both these areas being integrated so they can both work collaboratively and cohesively as they should.

The OPUS model is hopefully a way to be able to not only do this but to also provide libraries and school librarians with a system they can implement that can be used across the school and be fully embedded within the curriculum. This is where information literacy should be and where it can have the biggest impact. Teachers set students work on an hourly basis yet do they do so making sure that the students are aware of what they are looking for, where they might find it how they can best access the correct information? The answer is most likely no. A model like this is therefore what librarians have been crying out for as it encourages this type of learning to take place making sure that the responsibility of information skills is delegated through the whole school and taught in every single lesson.

The model itself represents the four main areas of learning and searching in a progressive order. In each stage there is also a further sub division that highlights the main areas of learning within. These subdivisions are real ‘stuff’ the bits that make the learning happen and the bits that explain how each section is possible. For instance in the Objective stage, the first stage, the sub divisions include the definition of need, the eliciting of prior knowledge and definition of gaps. What this looks like in real terms is an understanding of what is being asked, what prior knowledge exists to answer or complete the query and then a definition of what information is still needed.

The practical application of this in the classroom will be when the teacher is setting work maybe as homework, specific research work or even classwork. Things should be made explicit to the students and this could form a series of questions or a class discussion. For instance the teacher sets the main question thats needs answering and a discussion is had with the class to clearly define what is actually being asked of them.

What information do they need to answer this question. This, fundamentally is the ultimate goal. For a teacher this discussion also means that each student is able to leave the classroom or begin answering the question knowing exactly what it is that is being asked of them. A bonus for any teacher is that this will undoubtedly increase the quality of the work the student produces and the so also the difficulty of the work that teacher sets can get progressively harder over time due to students’ understanding of this methodology.

There is also some give from the teaching in a model like this. They need to be active in the learning as well as the student. Firstly the work they set must be meaningful not a series of treasure hunts, i.e. find ten facts about… The question set has to lead to a thirst for further knowledge and sometimes these are best achieved as challenges. The teacher also needs to be active in eliciting any prior knowledge of students. Helping them to see the links between this piece and any other work they have previously undertaken or even any knowledge the already have for a diffferent reason. This, coupled with guidance on formulating and defining the knowledge gaps leads to the completion of the first stage Objective, or defining the problem.

The next stage Plan, goes hand in hand with Objective as it is again a part of the classroom environment. This is where the teacher will spend time talking about important information literacy aspects such as keywording during internet searching and reliability of sources whilst also modelling what this process looks like. This is both familiar in terms of information literacy but also in terms of learning in an outstanding classroom. The process of modelling is important in allowing the students to see what it is they are to achieve and how they are to go about it. It forms an integral part of both of these aspects.

In the first stage we see the learner trying to gain a better understanding of how they are going to learn. This I have called the learning to learn stage. However in the Plan stage this is about the teaching enabling the learner to continue their journey. They are giving them the skills and knowledge that is going to help them undertake whatever task it might be.

The OPUS model , although not linear in the fact that a learner may move back and forward as they reassess the learning, does also follow a progressive path an ‘end’ stage. This end stage is a combination of the final two sections of the model, the Understanding and Synthesis sections.

The Understanding section involves the discovery of learning or information and it is the part where the learner finds themselves applying their skills, practicing their information searching or learning and assessing their success as the go along. This discovery stage is where the student, having been enabled can undertake the task armed with the correct tools to succeed. This the the meat of the learning and an important part of the whole.

This is also the point where the learner may find themselves referring back to Objective stage as they confirm whether the information, or learning they have completed is correct.

It is also the point that makes the final ‘end point’ possible. Moving seemlessly to the final stage of Synthesis sees the learner applying what they have learnt, found in a practical application. This can take the form of creating something or communicating an understanding or it could be about elaborating on and furthering the knowledge and understanding gained from the discovery stage. As mentioned before, OPUS is not linear so can allow, as learning does, the student to move back.

This model has already proved to be a success in school where we continue to use it as both a teaching/learning model and an information literacy model. In future posts I will cover its practical application with examples of how this can look in a classroom as we already have collected many successful examples of this.

However, it is exciting to see how a model which has information literacy at its heart can link so strongly to that of a teaching and learning model and which can be embedded into the ethos of learning in a school and be fundamental to a clasroom.

So watch this space for more information!

The Effective Information Literate Student

Effective information searching

 

It’s that time of year when most librarians go about teaching new students about information literacy and reteaching those that have seemingly had their minds wiped over the six weeks of summer. Luckily, since getting rid of having to teach information literacy and putting it into the hands of our teachers on a daily, lesson by lesson, basis (see previous posts for more information) I don’t have that ‘beginning of the year turmoil.’ Yet, I have been thinking quite hard about how the process of information searching works and how to help develop the habits in both our students and staff when it comes to information searching.

 

For the last couple of years these thoughts have progressed in my own mind after reading and conducting research and collaborating with many fantastic teachers. A lot of this work has gone into creating a new model for information literacy and learning (OPUS) more information can be found about this in future posts but an outline also exists under its own tab. What drove me to create this model was to insistence that there is a strong link between the process of learning and information searching. It seems a silly thing think to say because they are of course linked. Finding information is learning at is basic. However, all the models that exist for information literacy don’t take learning and teaching into account and this is the same with teaching and learning models omitting the links to information literacy.

 

OPUS is therefore the ‘glue model’ that sticks both these things together. However, this post isn’t about OPUS per se, it is in fact about some of the questions that led to its creation. Questions such as what makes a successful searcher of information? How can we ensure all students and staff are successful searchers etc etc.

 

Working with a number of teachers we set up an information experiment where we had two (science) classes of equal ability perform a number of tasks over the year. We mapped their abilities, their levelled pieces of work and their output against each other. They were studying exactly the same topics but one class was being taught explicit information literacy skills (through the OPUS model) and the other group had no explicit information skills taught to them. Group A (the group with information literacy training) was given a number of regular opportunities through the year to undertake research and prep (our version of homework – see previous posts for its link to information literacy) was given to aid and support this. Group B had fewer opportunities through the year to undertake research work and their prep was set in a more piecemeal way.

 

There were a number of things we learnt from doing this and this included, importantly, the teachers seeing the benefits of teaching information literacy within their lessons.  Over the next few months I will writing more about this project and it’s impact but for this post I wanted to look specifically about the impact frequency has in creating an effective information literate student.

 

The grid above shows how frequency of information searching has a correlative impact on the quality of a students ability to be information literate. One of the things we were hoping to prove was that by being frequently given the opportunity to undertake research students would become more effective searchers. This almost goes without saying, the more you do something, the more proficient you come at it. But it does still need proving. However, what we also found was that students that were being set research and given the opportunity to research on a regular basis were not only achieving better but were also putting more effort into their searching and so were being more effective.  If you look at the graphic above, one of the many we produced from our work, you can see how we categorized students based on the frequency of their research work and the effect their research was having. In terms of effect we looked at how effective their research skills were throughout the task and also at the end product and its success related to the task objectives.

 

We then plotted each of the students into the four categories from both of the groups. What we noticed was that the majority of students in group A appeared in the maximum effect and high frequency one. In fact 95% of students from group A sat in this category. In group B, the group with a low frequency of opportunities to conduct research, the students were a little more mixed  but the majority (67%) appeared in the minimum frequency minimum impact category. What the results were showing us was that those students that were being fed a regular diet of information literacy skills (through the OPUS model) and being given lots of opportunities to conduct research were being more effective in the quality of work they were producing.

 

Quite obvious when you think about but to see the specific impact that this was having on the students was brilliant and was justification of the style we adopted with group A. Not only is it about training, teaching and making explicit the skills of information literacy but just as importantly regular opportunities need to be given to allow the students to compound these skills and continue to improve. This then needs to be built into our lessons across the school with all teachers taking the opportunity to make these skills visible and to allow students the opportunity to undertake research regularly.

 

 

The Information Literate Classroom – expanding skills across the curriculum

image

When information literacy skills are not part of the everyday learning in the classroom they can only ever be ‘add-ons’ and no more.

When a teacher doesn’t embed these skills as part of their pedagogy and the ‘teaching’ of information literacy skills is done elsewhere they can again only ever be ‘add-ons’. As soon as someone else attempts to ‘teach’ these skills it immediately lowers the value students place in them as suddenly they are seen to be separate. Students get taught all the skills and knowledge they need by their teachers and see how subjects fit together by those teachers employing certain things across all subjects. For instance the ability to skim and scan, to successfully keyword and understand how search engines work and to reference materials etc etc are skills that are needed in all subjects so they should be part of the classroom teachers role to disseminate.

If the person in charge of information literacy in a school does not feel that their teachers are qualified or able enough to do this then they need to think about what they are trying to achieve. There’s a good chance that they are entirely missing the point of information literacy and what it means and what these skills should look like too. This happens all too often in schools where a public library approach to information is undertaken (this is in the few schools where information literacy is taken at least semi seriously). Let’s be honest, if you think that the skills that are needed are so advanced that teachers can’t become competent or able to teach them then is your precious nature of these skills stopping them from actually being useful skills? Because the skills needed are really not that difficult. They’re actually common sense and about making the skills of searching as explicit as possible.

To believe that these skills cannot be undertaken by teachers is also missing the entire point of teaching and creating true (not false) cross curricular and whole school approaches. If someone else is needed to ‘teach’ these skills then it is not cross curricular, or whole school and fundamentally I would question whether the buy in from teachers was so limited that this is why it is this way.

To make anything cross curricular and whole school it is the teachers that need to buy into it. They are the ones that will ultimately be doing it at the chalk face so they need to see that not only is it part of their role but importantly that it is a vital part of teaching and learning. They will see this by the person in charge of information literacy not running lots of training on a dry uninteresting subject but by showing them how these skills can improve the quality of learning that goes on in the classroom, and that it has a positive impact on their teaching. If they don’t see this they will ultimately not do it.

To get information literacy skills in the classroom and therefore across the curriculum you need to show the benefit of these skills to learning and teaching. The fundamentals of information literacy is understanding a gap in knowledge and then going about filling that gap. Yes there are other micro skills within this including digital literacy skills, referencing etc etc however the ability to know there is a need for information and to be able to find it successfully is the basis. Funnily enough these skills are also the basis of learning. That is why we have developed the OPUS model of information literacy and learning in our school. However even if you don’t employ a model such as this the core, base understanding and skills information literacy employ are just the same as learning. If we want students to become information and digitally literate these skills need to be employed by all teachers in all learning.

Just with any skill that is needed in learning these things go on in the outstanding classrooms. They happen because the outstanding teachers realise that it is their job to model and make explicit the skills that are needed to undertake a task. If they are asking them to write a letter they will model the correct method of writing a letter. If they are asking them to create a graph they will model the correct way to do so. This is the case whether they are an English or maths teacher or not. This is the meaning of true cross curricular, transferrable skills.

So we, as librarians, knowledgeable about information literacy and digital literacy need to be able to lead our teachers to see how these skills fit into their teaching. How they are fundamental to them, and how importantly they are already part of the outstanding classroom. As soon as this knowledge and this practice is shared and made explicit, and the impact of it is seen too then you start to get positive results.

So how do you quantify these skills to teachers? How do you show them that they are fundamental?

First you have to break them down. You have to show them that information literacy isn’t something to be scared of. Isn’t something that only certain people can be experts or specialists in. You need to show teachers that actually they are probably undertaking a lot of these skills already in their teaching. But it’s about taking the opportunity to make these things explicit to the students and modelling them so the students can see just how it should be done/should look.

The university of Bristol breaks down the skills of information literacy as the following for its students:

-understand what sort of information is required
-recognise where and how that information can be found, and develop an effective strategy for obtaining it
-use a variety of specialist online and printed resources – not just Google and the library catalogue – to find the information you need
-compare and evaluate the information obtained from different sources
-use the information ethically by understanding and avoiding plagiarism – for example, by citing your sources correctly

Now if this is good enough for a university then it is certainly good enough for a school. There is absolutely nothing in here that a teacher cannot do in the classroom. If they are helping their students to learn, are aware of the work that is being set of students etc etc then these skills are part of the learning process. To consider them otherwise is probably the reason very few schools take information literacy serious.

What we need to do is talk to teachers and show them how making these skills explicit will improve the quality of the work that the students are completing. Students are always needing to find information, whether for homework or research purposes and it is at this point that we need to work with teachers and show how the outstanding classroom makes this setting of work as explicit as possible. In the outstanding classroom the teacher sets meaningful work which ties into the lesson and learning and they talk to the students about how they might undertake the process. This includes answering any questions there and then that arise from the work, instead of allowing the students to leave the classroom unaware of exactly what it is they are being asked to do. This includes thinking about where they might find this information and how they might go about presenting it. Students leave having had these skills modelled to them and know what the finished piece is going to look like. These are all information literacy skills but they’re just made explicitly so. This is what we need to change.

The classroom is the place where information literacy belongs in a schoool and it belongs in the hands of the teacher. If we can make this happen by making the skills of information literacy explicit to teachers and students we can achieve a lot for the benefit of learning instead of a job title.

The murder of knowledge and the importance of school libraries

Knowledge, over the years, seemed to have lost its original meaning or has at least been lost in translation, especially since the dawning of the internet and the world wide web. Although in the 12 century one of the earliest meanings was to do with sexual intercourse the more familiar explanation given is that of  facts, information and skills acquired through education. That, for me, has to be the main point. ‘Gained through education.’ The implication is that one cannot just be granted knowledge but that there must be a certain amount of work and graft in a formalised setting. It is this that seems to have be lost since the invention of the internet.

Knowledge is now touted as the thing that is easily and readily accessible at the end of one’s fingertips and via a whole host of devices such as phones, tablets and computers. Knowledge is there for the taking. However we must not get confused with the differences between the idea of knowledge and with information. Information comes at us from all sorts of places and the internet is just one of those. There are endless reams of information that enter our lives on daily, hourly basis but this does not result in knowledge.

Information exists in abundance but knowledge is the ability to synthesise, understand and use that knowledge in a useful way. Knowledge is the higher order outcome that exists when we take information and are able to synthesise, understand and use it in a useful, successful way. It is the learned process of taking information and becoming it’s master, using it to your own ends and needs. Knowledge requires you do something with the information and not just take it in via osmosis. The belief that we can become more knowledgeable due to the ease of access of information is an interesting one and certainly not wrong. What is wrong though is the belief that this information can be directly turned into knowledge without a process occurring to assimilate this information into knowledge. This assimilation is the key and the area that worries me most about information in schools.

The kinds of information that schools are looking for is specific. In the bigger picture of information what schools require is just a drop in the ocean and this is the problem. If there is so much information and a student just requires a miniscule amount of that information how are they able to reach it succinctly and successful? The answer is of course with the aid of a guide and filter. Someone who is able to arm the student with the relevant skills to enable them but also someone to help filter out a lot of information that just isn’t needed. Then there needs to be a curriculum and level of teaching in the school where this information, once accessed, can be turned into knowledge where the user is ‘taught’ the understanding. Realistically what we are describing here is a library. A library where the librarian is one of curriculum leader; guiding the school and learning to make this outcome possible and where they are filtering the glut of information into manageable, usable and relevant information that can be transformed into knowledge. Importantly it also requires a library where there is a range of ways to access to information outside of digitally and if that is books then even better.

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The over reliance upon the internet is only perpetuating and further blurring the difference between information and knowledge. Having spoken to a number of highly qualified and leading curriculum experts there is very little of the curriculum that requires the internet. What the internet provides education and the curriculum is the enhancement factor. Collaboration is key for teachers, to share best practice and to access resources to enhance the learning in the classroom through technologies. However there is very little, to nothing in the curriculum that requires the internet. It may make finding information quicker and easier (though without the relevant skills I would argue against this) but you can still do this without the internet. Ultimately the curriculum is by no means dependent on the internet and neither is learning. So why do schools and educators believe it to be so?

It is because we have become conditioned to believe that the answer to everything is on the internet; that because the internet contains lots of information we are able to readily use it to find out whatever we need. But having and finding the information is very different from knowing and understanding it.

If we think back to our original thoughts about the internet when it first started to take over our lives we believed it to be the connection to the world; that it opened up possibilities for us to be closer as a species and that communication would become easier. However, what we seen over the past decade is instead something very different. We have seen a dramatic shift in the way information flows across the world. Sites such as Google and social media representations are filtering the information we receive to personalise the what and when of our lives. We are becoming part of a filter bubble where we only see what an algorithm thinks we want to see.

A perfect example of this is my smart phone. The Google app on it tells me in the morning how quick it is to work and what the traffic is like. It also tells me that on a Wednesday I take a different route as I drop my son off. Brilliant, you may think. But, I have never told it this information or created a setting to tell it do so. It does it because of the algorithm. Big brother is indeed watching us.

Even when we are not logged on Google uses 57 signals to personally tailor the information we receive based on those different factors. There is no longer a standard Google anymore where we all receive the same results based upon our enquiries. What we receive is information that places us in a bubble by not only showing us what it thinks we want to see but also eliminating everything else we don’t. The worrying fact is that as these corporations become more targeted in this way our students in our schools may be receiving a quantity of information from any one search but they might not be receiving the right types of information or only information targeted towards what they algorithm thinks they want. This could be disastrous and potentially harmful in the learning process.

So how do we overcome this? How do we stop this from happening and make sure that students get the information they need without the over reliance on internet where they are only receiving biased, tainted facts?

The answer is obvious. Libraries and librarians. We need to trust the skills and knowledge of the librarians and we need to make sure these skills are utilised when analysing curriculum needs and looking at resourcing subjects. They need to be part of design of schools and the fabric of learning just as the classroom teacher and senior leadership are.

The curriculum does not need the internet but with some taming and an understanding of where and how it can be used to enhance learning and improve processes the internet can be a useful tool for all of us. So let’s use the people that can already do this in schools, the school librarian.