by Betty Story
Developing research/technology curricula for International Baccalaureate and Middle Years school library programs the last few years has given me reasonable expectations of research and technology capability for middle and high school students who have continual practice with technology.
Fortunate young people have moved way beyond simply using Power Point for presentations. In elementary years they are mastering Glogster, Prezi, Story Bird, Garage Band, and pod casts. Innovative teachers use Moodle and Webquests for Internet enhanced lessons. Some middle and high schools use Noodleworks to craft research papers and citation software to create bibliographies. Electronic grammar and spell checks are taken for granted.
Although these students may be “future ready” with navigating software, how much they comprehend and adequately assess what they Googled or found on databases is a concern. Some students have learned writing by completing “report writing” and grammar worksheets; crafting sentences and paragraphs is an undeveloped skill. Plagiarism detection software as such as Turnitin are now part of high school and university teachers’ tool kits.
Research Strategies: Finding Your Way through the Information Fog, by William Badke, talks of “remedial information literacy”, that is needed to provide methods for students to sort and synthesize the overwhelm of information. From the my perspective, with capable librarians and teachers, motivated students (especially those in private schools or public school college prep programs) will rise to expectations of independent and critical thinking required for online research. Unfortunately, while these students learn to ably sort out information and go beyond paraphrasing, under served public high school students can lack information literacy.
Since public school library positions are being cutback, the digital divide may widen. A recent statement from the American Association of School Libraries ( AASL) and case studies backing up the report, School Libraries Work!, examines the impact of public school libraries that are under staffed. ( The impact of public library cutbacks and loss of computer access to many is a whole other post.)
Regardless, to end on a positive note, this digitally able generation is constantly evolving but does need guidance. Students can and will learn to understand a research problem, find relevant content, and transform the information. Finding the solutions to developing these skills for all young people is a piece of the future ready puzzle.
Betty Story has been a school librarian, school library consultant and trainer for 25 years. She has worked with several private international schools and colleges, but knows that our public school librarians are unsung heroes.
Also an independent information professional, she is also a member of AIIP on their board as Membership Development Chair.