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Information and digital literacy – richer through collaboration

Every day there’s an onslaught of new information demanding our attention. But when anyone can be an author, how do we know what information we can trust? While it’s clear that learning how to evaluate the validity and relevance of material is absolutely essential, information and digital literacy are still not given the attention they deserve in today’s packed curriculum.

When information literacy is not thoughtfully incorporated into lessons from an early age (and then regularly revisited throughout a child’s schooling), the library can become a maze of complicated rules, and less and less appealing to visit. On top of that, in this age of immediacy, information that isn’t literally at our fingertips is too far away. No wonder students will settle for the top three returns on a Google search, or gather a large number of broadly-related resources, instead of a narrow selection of relevant ones.

So, how can we ensure our students develop good research habits early? How can we encourage the whole school community to make use of the curated online databases they can access through the library?

The answers lie in collaboration

Librarians are the experts in the field of information literacy, yet are often dismissed and underutilised within schools. Information literacy should be a school-wide; even curriculum-wide project where teachers collaborate with librarians to build rich lesson plans. Media and information literacy strategies could be regularly and intentionally incorporated into class work from an early age. This way, teachers can witness struggles first-hand, assisting before the bad-habits develop.

Of course, the issue runs deeper. Many library-anxious children have grown up to become teachers. Creating staff PD sessions where you can share strategies for effective research, will help your colleagues support their students. By encouraging good research habits from an early age, we can stop the cycle of library anxiety and foster a life-long love of reading and discovery (not to mention the next generation of librarians!). Besides, librarians need allies and advocates, and it’s an opportunity for you to prove your value to your colleagues.

Don’t forget about parents

With click-bait headlines and an excess of information available, parents are just as likely to fall into the online traps their kids do. Making sure parents and caregivers are aware of the extensive treasure trove of library resources they can reach from home, will help them support their children in their research journey. Creating a library Twitter page where you regularly post updates about the latest reads and library initiatives can be a great way to remind parents and the wider community about the importance of the library.

Utilising your library management system

Your library management system should make this dialogue easy. The Accessit Library web app catalogue is accessible from any device, whenever you need it. With instructional “how-to” videos, students and teachers are encouraged to make the most of every tool available to them – searching, writing reviews, sharing resources and lists, as well as updating their own interests.

Anything can be catalogued, so teachers can be creative with their classes – uploading book trailers, recording performances or speeches, and uploading music. They can create reading lists to support assignments, and even issue books directly within the classroom. And with the auto-citation maker, students aren’t tempted to plagiarise – and teachers can spend more time focusing on the ‘whys’ of the referencing, rather than the ‘hows’.

Accessit One Search – a teacher’s best friend

Of course, it’s the Accessit One Search tool that really enables students to quickly and reliably access academic articles and information on a topic with just a few simple clicks. Amy Featonby, former Assistant Head of English at Cambridge High School, agrees.

“Accessit is a gateway to knowledge that allows me to extend my students. Initially, it seemed like something more for librarians – I was wrong! It has really helped my teaching, and my students’ grades are the proof that it’s making a real difference,” says Amy.

Amy has found Accessit to be a great classroom and teaching resource.

“We used Accessit to support the level 3 literature resource standard. The standard requires students to find and use reliable and appropriate sources to develop a hypothesis, much like a first-year University paper. My class received 83% Excellence (with the remainder of students attaining Merit). The national average for Excellence in that standard is just 28.4%. When I asked the students how we aced it, they replied with two things – our focus and learning in class and One Search.”

A unique perspective

Librarians hold a unique position in a school – they are able to observe the full picture, and can help to knit together lessons and projects across the curriculum, building on research skills from one class to the next. Advocating for a collaborative culture at the school will help the wider school community see the real value in their librarian and their library catalogue, increasing resource usage and student engagement.

Resources

Dahlgreen, MaryKay (2017). What Collaboration Means to Me: Playing Well With Others. Collaborative Librarianship, 9(4), 238-341. https://digitalcommons.du.edu/collaborativelibrarianship/vol9/iss4/2 

Garvey, Maureen; Hays, Anne; and Stempler, Amy F. (2017). A Collaborative Intervention: Measuring the Impact of a Flipped Classroom Approach on Library One-shots for the Composition Classroom. Collaborative Librarianship, 9(4), 259-280. https://digitalcommons.du.edu/collaborativelibrarianship/vol9/iss4/5

Long, Deborah (2007). Increasing Literacy in the High School Library: Collaboration Makes It Happen. Teacher Librarian 35(1), 13-17.

Morrison, Katherine; Watkins, Alexander. (2015). Can only Librarians do Library Instruction? Collaborating with Graduate Students to Teach Discipline- Specific Information Literacy. The Journal of Creative Library Practice. https://creativelibrarypractice.org/2015/02/27/can-only-librarians-do-library-instruction/

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