Dear Creekview High School Learning Community:

Although January marks the beginning of the year on our traditional calendars, this month represents two milestones in the school calendar.  January is the midpoint of the year and a time in which I pause to reflect on how the current school year has gone and where I would like it go.  January is also the month in which I start looking ahead to the upcoming school year and what I hope to accomplish.

Dr. Joyce Valenza, one of the most respected media specialists and leaders in educational and library-information circles, recently tagged me in a meme and blog post that encourages reflection and goal-setting.  While I am proud of the successes and direction of our library program, I know that we have yet to become fully integrated into all areas of our school program and much work remains for our library program to reach you, our patrons, in the way I first envisioned three years ago.

What ideas and concepts do I need to better share with you as students, teachers, and administrators?   What does our library program need to do to help us all see beyond the short term effects of No Child Left Behind and testing to create learning experiences to go with you for a lifetime?  How do I nurture lifelong learning for teens and adults?  How do I infuse the beliefs and learning standards set forth for you as NowGen 21st century learners by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and ISTE NETS for Students? How do I help you as teachers and administrators (2009 version still in draft form at this time)  see how information fluency standards for you affect the way you teach and how your students learn?  How do I make learning playful and joyful for you?

With these questions in mind, here is my list of things I need to share with you with more depth in 2009:

  • Literacy:  How do we define literacy?  What does it mean to be literate?  Informationally literate?  What counts as reading?   How do we tap into the power of new media and new literacies to engage in meaningful research experiences that help us think more critically and create learning products that involve genuine synthesis and evaluation?  This is a conversation we have started with several students and teachers, but more voices need to join this dialogue.  Let us as students and teachers take an inquiry stance on literacy and explore how definitions of literacy intersect with our practices as readers, writers, and researchers.
  • Digital Citizenship/Fair Use/Copyright/Creative Commons: While we have taken baby steps to educate you as teachers and students about the changing landscape of information and how use it ethically, too many learners lack knowledge about the appropriate ways in which we can use the ideas and creative content of others.   My Media 21 Capstone Project for 2009-10 will focus on how we as a school community (students and teachers) can create information portals and learning opportunities for you to help you access, interpret, and evaluate resources for using information and creative content ethically.
  • Collaboration: While I am proud of many of the collaborative research projects and learning experiences the library has enjoyed with you, I am not satisfied.  Too many teachers and students are not taking advantage of the physical, virtual, and human resources our library has to offer you.    Quite frankly, I don’t care how things have always been in high school (the typical English class dominated statistics).   While I firmly believe that quality is more important than quantity, I will never believe that 35–40% of the faculty collaborating with the library is acceptable.Information literacy is everyone’s business, and as educators, we cannot afford to shortchange our students of the learning opportunities and resources our library (which has been richly blessed)has to offer you.   Piecemeal collaboration does not lend itself to making significant strides in creating an information literate student body who is prepared to face the challenges of today’s world.I will be working to share with you as teachers and administrators the importance of information literacy for today’s learners.   I will be focusing on collaboration with departments, our leadership team, and school committees to help create a learning culture that values and integrates information literacy into all areas of teaching and learning.  As Doug Johnson points out, “Without whole school buy-in, we will have amazing successes with the few individual teachers, but not impact the entire learning community” (2008).  Without your support and integration of information literacy into all areas of our curriculum, our students lose.  The reality is that every teacher should be a Teach 21 teacher whether or not he or she is enrolled in our district’s Teach 21 program.  Let me teach you ways to integrate technology into your instruction, to learn about the wonderful tools available to us to make learning more meaningful to our students.  Let me work with you to design research projects that will help engage your students and go beyond the McDonald’s model of fast-food information.  Let us work together as a team to create learning and research experiences for our students that will have real value.  Many of you have cited the pressure to “cover” standards and high stakes tests as reasons for not using the library more, but I would like to collaborate with you to help you address those standards through project based learning that we can facilitate in the library.
  • Personal Learning Networks:  How can we as teachers and students take advantage of traditional and emerging technologies to develop meaningful personal learning networks that we can use for immediate research projects and for lifelong learning?  While some classes and teachers have taken advantage of our mini-lessons on iGoogle and use my Pageflakes pagecasts, I would like to work with you to take your use of these tools to the next level.  How can we apply the theory of connectivism to facilitate learning and give students more responsibility and control of their learning?
  • Authority: How do we define authoritative sources?  How do we help students evaluate these information sources?  When is it appropriate to use Wikipedia or a database article?  Where do emerging technologies like YouTube fit into research?  As many students and teachers have already seen, a balanced diet of information sources is healthy—I believe our databases, books, Wikipedia, sources found through strategic research, and social media information sources are threads that can all be used to successfully knit effective research.   While we have scratched the surface of these questions about authoritative sources and information evaluation, I feel we need to explore these questions and issues more deeply with students.
  • The Library as The Information Commons: I want to help students and teachers see our library as the heart of learning in our school for teens and adults, not a glorified computer lab that you come to when every other resource  is booked.    Whether we are engaging in research on conflicts in the Middle East, hosting an art gallery or poetry reading, sponsoring a study session for the Algebra II exam, or presenting “Lunch and Learn” sessions on how to use a Flip video camera, I want to help students and teachers envision the library as the “go to” place when you have a question or information need, not an afterthought.  Let us help you discover the resources and strategies for finding answers.    I want our library to be the center of cultural and academic learning and to continue to extend ways for you to participate in our library during and outside the school day.

Since this is a meme, I would like to invite these fellow school librarians to add to the dialogue:

“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly
human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

~Paulo Freire~

Buffy Hamilton, Teacher-Librarian
Creekview High School