A Vision for Teacher-librarianship

April 3, 2009

Here’s “21st Century Teacher-librarian”  created in MovieMaker.

This work is submitted as a final assignment for partial credit in my University of Alberta Teacher-Librarianship Distance Learning course: Information Technologies for Learning with Joanne de Groot.

How I chose to illustrate my vision was up to me, with ANIMOTO or another mash-up suggested as a possibility.

At first I thought it would be far too difficult to encapsulate something this highly conceptual using ANIMOTO, so decided to do a MovieMaker video instead. I could narrate what I wanted to say, and I had a lot of learning from my course to convey, plus I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate a reference list or give proper credit using ANIMOTO.  Yet after assembling all the images I needed for my MovieMaker video, I thought that perhaps the images could convey the message on their own, so decided to use ANIMOTO as an experiment.

I copy and pasted the draft script I used to narrate the MovieMaker version to Wordle and was very pleased with the resulting visual synthesis as a word cloud. I included it in both presentations. I also like the image mashup I made using Mosaic Maker from fd’s Flickr Toys.

Getting the right image to illustrate a specific concept turned out to be the hardest part.  I had to choose photos with permission from students and staff, or cleared with creative commons licensing, or for non-commercial educational use.  I e-mailed and Twittered for permission where permission wasn’t clearly granted. I have a stack of permission e-mails and photo release forms that I’m not sure what to do with, or how long I need to keep them- sigh . . .

I’ve decided to add the ANIMOTO version to my school library page and blog  because of it’s 21st century look and feel.  It’s edgier, more engaging, and fun to watch.

I’m not sure which presentation is the most effective. What do you think?

Here are the images and sources list that may have been too blurry to view:








Sources List:

Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada. (2004). Focus on Inquiry: A Teacher’s Guide to Implementing Inquiry Learning. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Alberta Education: http://education.alberta.ca/media/313361/focusoninquiry.pdf

American Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from AASL Learning Standards: http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/learningstandards/AASL_LearningStandards.pdf

Asselin, M., & Doiron, R. (2008, July). Towards a Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries 2.0. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from School Libraries Worldwide: http://asselindoiron.pbwiki.com/SLW14%3A2+AsselinDoiron

Canadian Association for School Libraries. (2005). techbroche.pdf. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from Canadian Association for School Libraries Website: http://www.cla.ca/casl/techbroche.pdf

CAST: Center for Applied Special Technology. (1999-2008). Retrieved March 12, 2009, from What is Universal Design for Learning?: http://www.cast.org/research/udl/index.html

Davis, V. (2008, January 17). It is about Educational Networking NOT Social Networking . Retrieved March 25, 2009, from Cool Cat Blog: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2008/01/it-is-about-educational-networking-not.html

Doyle, S., & Trousdell, L. (2007, November 15). The Library is a Mashup. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from Animoto: http://animoto.com/play/5b84f59869b8cbf7c6ab7426548e957e

Gasser, U., & Palfrey, J. (2009, March). Mastering Multitasking. Educational Leadership , pp. 15-19.

King, J. Getting In Deep Online Image From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal. http://www.fno.org/feb06/febcartoon.html.

Literacy with ICT Across the Curriculum. (2004-2008). Retrieved March 12, 2009, from Manitoba Education, Citizenship & Youth: http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/tech/lict/show_me/continuum.html

Mullen, R., & Wedwick, L. (2008, November/December). Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas , pp. 66-69.

Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born Digital. New York: Basic Books.

Plair, S. K. (2008, Nov – Dec). Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas: http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ816794&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ816794

Ransom, S. Leaving Digital Footprints that Count Online Image ransomtech>Digital Footprints. http://ransomtech.wikispaces.com/Digital+Footprints

Rossini (Composer). Barber of Seville. On Frequency Orch. Rossini Selections: http://www.freeplaymusic.com.

The International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). The ISTE Technology Standards and Performance Indicators (NETS-S) for Students. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from ISTE: http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForStudents/2007Standards/NETS_for_Students_2007_Standards.pdf

The International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). The ISTE Technology Standards and Performance Indicators (NETS-T) for Teachers. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from ISTE: http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForTeachers/2008Standards/NETS_T_Standards_Final.pdf

Valenza, J. +. (2009). You know you’re a 21st century librarian if . . . Retrieved March 10, 2009, from Information Fluence: http://informationfluency.wikispaces.com/You+know+you%27re+a+21st+century+librarian+if+.+.+.


What is Effective Technology Professional Development?

March 29, 2009

“A leader in ed. tech. is a person who knows how to make those  connections.”
WOW2 Show 108 podcast with MaryFriend Shepard
March 15, 2009

MaryFriend goes on to explain that Dewey’s theory of constructivist learning is the only learning theory that explains how integrating technology into today’s schools will work. This requires that a solid and shared understanding of the principles of constructivism and social constructivism, so educators are prepared to meet learners where/how they learn in today’s ever increasing technological society.

The barriers to successful professional development (PD) are significant. We know from Chao-Hsiu Chen’s work and writing in  Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology integration? that some teachers’ lack or inconsistent understanding of this theoretical understanding hinders effective integration of technology into curriculum. External factors including pressure for students to achieve well in standardized exams and fears that content won’t be covered are two  external barriers that Chen identified.

Any PD initiative should begin by helping teachers make connections between their perceived need to cover curriculum and the sometimes conflicting demands of 21st century literacies.  It requires much more than the simple knowledge of how to use the tools. It requires an in depth understanding of good pedagogy in a supportive school climate conducive to inquiry learning and collaboration. Scott McLeod has developed some excellent guidelines for school leaders to set the stage for effective 21st century PD in Professional Development for Leaders.

In An Absence of Leadership, Scott suggests a good place to start is the ISTE’s NETS for Students and NETS for Teachers. I would then add an introduction to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy is  familiar tool all teachers use when trying to infuse higher level thinking into their lessons and this is a great way to allow teachers to connect to what they already know. Andrew Churches has shown how it applies to technology integration – including the new Web 2.0 tools.  Illustration by Andrew Churches – from Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy V 3.0:


Then I’d re-introduce Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT continuum and the 21st Century Skills Map developed by the National Council of English Teachers which goes even further to illustrate how the tools can be integrated to meet curriculum standards. Teachers can then be asked to identify for themselves what they really need to be doing in this area.

Effective integration of technology requires time to meet, plan, and research – lots of time!  Judi Harris wrote an excellent 4 part series of articles for the ISTE online journal Leading and Learning with Technology entitled “One Size Doesn’t Fit All”. She asserts in  Part 1 (February 2008) that “30 hours of focused PD is required to change teachers professional practice.” Anyone who has tried to implement a successful technology professional development program for staff knows the extreme range of proficiency of use and range of successful integration that exists within any school staff – young and old. Judi Harris has developed a model that describes how the goals of PD can be addressed to meet the needs of each teacher.  Judi Harris gives some concrete ideas of how to combine goals and models to find the most effective and specific approaches given individual teacher’s differences. Teachers are described as innovators, early adoptors, early majority, late majority or laggards.

Kimberly Ketterer in “Coach, Nurture or Nudge” (Learning & Leading with Technology, May 2007)  provides a brief and insightful description of 3 groups of teachers in need of either coaching, nurturing or nudging, along with some suggestions on how best to work with each group. No longer can it be said: “You can’t hope to reach every teacher”.

Camilla Gagliolo identifies several structures by which teachers can help mentor one another in “Help Teachers Mentor One Another” (Learning & Leading with Technology, Sept./Oct 2008).

Yet Sandra Kay Plair’s assertion in Revamping Professional Development for Technology Integration and Fluency resonates the strongest:

Despite a steady wave of how-to workshops and some longer-duration seminars, infusing technology into curriculum and teaching practices remains elusive for many teachers. The existing format for technology-related professional development lacks the continuity that teachers need to develop the confidence and efficacy leading to technology fluency. Teachers crave a constant support person, in close proximity and available to fill in the gaps that arise with the rapid changes associated with technology.

She goes on to advocate for a “knowledge broker” or a staff member identified as the educational technology mentor: someone that knows how to use technology tools to enhance teaching and learning.

I know from working for 12 years as an in-school technology support teacher that this is true. I worked with each teacher on planning and integrating technology.  The classroom teacher was recognized as the curriculum specialist and I as the technology specialist. Everyone was armed with knowledge of good teaching strategies employed school-wide. Why is this model of in-school support not more widespread? Part of this answer is the reality of dwindling resources for staff allocation. So in the absence of sufficient staffing for full-time technology mentors, the teacher-librarian is in a unique position to provide  collaborative support, or to help set up formal mentoring structures to integrate technology, even with those teachers needing the most nudging.

School-wide access to some standard software helps build a shared understanding of the tools which can be used to integrate technology. For example every school should have concept-mapping software, word processors, spreadsheet, database and graphic creation and editing software available school-wide on all computers. If the same software is used division-wide, then even more sharing between colleagues is possible.

No discussion of professional development for integrating educational technology would be complete without including the many opportunities afforded by online learning. There are also many opportunities for growing a personal learning network online as well as enrolling in a formal online course. Although it’s not for every teacher, in many ways it can be the best professional development available for learning the new tools, how to use them and how to assess in today’s schools. In “Online Professional (Leading and Learning with Technology, May 2007) Jim Vanides describes how it  can allow students to be deeply reflective and participate fully instead of the 2-3 vocal students as in a traditional classroom.

Personally I can attest that online learning, through formal courses and using the web 2.0 technologies,  is the best I’ve ever experienced.

What is Effective Technology Integration?

March 22, 2009

The Technology Integration page at Edutopia.org provides a good explanation:

Effective Technology Instruction is when its use supports curricular goals. It must support four key components of learning:

  1. active engagement
  2. participation in groups
  3. frequent interaction and feedback
  4. connection to real-world experts

This site also has some excellent exemplary videos and descriptions of effective technology integration in different schools. Keri Hem’s TeacherTube video is another exemplary video: Effective Technology Integration.  Keri  stresses  that the focus be on the learning, not the technology, and that the learning activity needs to be difficult or impossible without the technology.

WAIT! Don’t click the back button yet This is a good starting point to help answer the question, but far from a complete answer.

Effective technology integration also requires a solid understanding of good pedagogy well grounded in solid educational learning theory and principles, such as the supporting principles for Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT developmental continuum:

• inquiry
• constructivist learning
• higher-level critical and creative thinking
• reaching deeper understanding
• gradual release of responsibility
• digital citizenship
• multiple literacies for the 21st century

In Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs – Mullen & Wedwick (2008) wisely recommend that when using digital storytelling, it is important for students to focus on the story first and the digital medium second, otherwise the stories can be weak and overpowered by the technology” (p.68) A similar message is delivered by Jason Ohler inthe March 2009 issue of  Educational Leadership in Orchestrating the Media Collage: “Focus on expression first and technology second and everything will fall into place”.  He also recommends teachers “be the guide on the side rather than the technician magician” (p. 13).

Yet the transformative changes required to allow that shift from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” have shown to cause confusion and conflict in teacher belief systems as outlined by Chao-Hsiu Chen in Why do teachers not practice what they believe regarding technology integration? “Educational reform may encourage teachers to integrate technology to engage students in activities of problem-solving, critical thinking and collaborative learning, but a culture emphasizing competition and a high-stakes assessment system can strongly discourage teachers from undertaking such innovative initiatives.” (p. 73)

Perhaps this  helps  explain why of the 55  industry sectors recently ranked by their level of IT intensiveness, education was ranked 55:

This suggests that intensive technology integration is not going to happen due to the efforts of a few innovative school leaders. This is going to take extensive education reform and  include all the stakeholders: parents, students, educators, administrators, school board members, ministry and elected officials.

Has this reformation begun? Yes. Some schools would even report that it’s already happened. In my school I see the beginnings of some crucial components coming together, including division and school administrator support. Shifts are being made in how we assess students and how we work together in a school-wide and global culture of collaboration and inquiry.

And many resources are available for those ready to make the shift. In All Aboard and School-wide Technology Integration a focus on collaborative planning between teachers, teacher-librarian and other school specialists to plan and implement 21st century skill adoption is demonstrated and explained.

Resource lists like those available at www.futurekids.org & Technology Integration Made Easy have some good tips, but do little to move towards the transformative changes needed to fully integrate the 20th century skills and attitudes.  One excellent resource and example to fully integrate those skills and attitudes is laid out in the grade 4, 8 & 12 21st century skills Map by Dave Nagel, Partnership for 21st Century Skills Debuts ’21st Century Skills and English Map, from T.H.E. Journal ( November 2008).

Can the efforts of a few  innovative school leaders make a difference? Yes! Teacher-librarians and IT specialists are in a  unique position to work with others in the learning community and all the educators in a school towards a common vision grounded in good pedagogy.


Rhonda Morrissette, Mike Friesen, Jo-Anne Gibson and Heather Eby sharing ideas for integrating Web 2.0 tools at a recent Manitoba School Library Association Literacy and Information Technology Forum

I’ve jotted down a few ideas below that I either have or would like to demonstrate how technology will assist student learning in all stages of the inquiry process:


  • Concept mapping
  • create assessment criteria using a spreadsheet or desktop publisher


  • Best searching strategies including paid subscription sites and newspaper, magazine and journal databases
  • Social bookmarking & RSS feeds
  • iTunes podcasts
  • Collecting Primary Data  using digital cameras, e-mail, videoconferencing, GPS, online surveys and online artifacts.



  • wikis to gather information, collaborate & demonstrate learning & synthesize
  • create reports, maps, spreadsheets & charts
  • presentation software like PowerPoint/Slideshare
  • multimedia software like MovieMaker or PhotoStory
  • web pages
  • blog – analysis, reflection and exchanging views
  • Citation software/tools – Citation Maker/Reference Tools in Microsoft Office 2007


  • demonstrate learning in a wiki, podcast, videocast, website,
  • mashup, movie, blog, animation, comic book format (using Comic Life software), or essay


  • Blog comments
  • Flow chart

And all the while with teachers assessing, and students reflecting on the process using blogs, electronic journals, e-mail, podcasts, video or digital photograph portfolios. (Focus on Inquiry: Alberta Learning, Alberta, Canada, 2004 & Manitoba Education’s Literacy with ICT developmental continuum).

So what makes effective technology integration? The important thing to know is that no educator is alone in this. To integrate technology effectively requires a full team effort. It recognizes and honours the strengths and gifts that each student, staff and community member can bring to student learning. It allows students to learn and  demonstrate understanding of their learning using the best tools and resources available.

More on this next week . . . . .

Do you feel like somebody’s watching you?

March 15, 2009

blinkingeye2_biggerblinking eye by Steve Dembo:
with permission from “Turning Twitter into the Daily Prophet”

“I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy, whoa-oa-oa”

Rockwell Lyrics, Somebody’s Watching Me

At a recent visit to my banker, I noticed he can see my debit card history and exactly how much I spend at the liquor store. I just recently learned that my University of Alberta online instructors  can see how much time I spend on the Blackboard eClass system, how much time I spend in the chatroom and how many e-mails I send to others in the course. The computer tech at my school recently let it slip that he’s observed my high e-mail usage and joked that I use more space on the server than almost anyone else in my school. It’s not a stretch to realize that the far-reaching consequences of this kind of surveillance could be more than just embarassing. At what point is it an invasion of privacy?

I predict a new sci-fi thriller on the perils of loss of privacy on the internet in an Orwellian dystopian future. If I was a better writer, I might like to write that novel; then use it to cause students to think about the long-term consequences of their online actions today.


As Palfrey and Gasser state so eloquently in Born Digital many young people are more focused on the importance of their current online social life than the long term repercussions of their online activity. (p. 53) “Young people use the internet to  connect to one another but may not realize that they are also connected to a large number of corporations and institutions.” (p. 66)

Parent and teachers have far more to offer young people than they may think when it comes to teaching them about how to protect their identities online. The first challenge is to know enough to be credible. But once the conversation starts, everyone will be better off. (p. 73)

Do I know enough to be credible? In some ways my 21 year old knows more than me about how to guard her personal information online, and chides her friends when they “give away” too much information.

All this has made me think about the difference between how some digital native may approach building their digital identity and how some educators may approach building theirs.

  • Digital natives build their identity mainly to connect socially with others.
  • Educators connect to learn more and possibly to advance themselves in their profession.
  • Despite the challenges presented by inconsistent and fluctuating privacy laws and regulations, both may aim to increase their online profile.
  • We both need to make that leap of trust and hope we don’t present a risk to our own  safety, risk of fraud, or that our health and financial histories could one day be used against us.
  • Educators know there are actions we can take as individuals to mitigate the risks.

I think we all know we’re going to be targeted for advertisements to a greater or lesser extent, and  media awareness education and initiatives is one area educators can easily focus. Canada’s Media Awareness Network continues to be a current and invaluable resource to Canadian educators.

Some online services like Google, seem to be responsive to our desire for greater privacy online. This is evidenced by the 3-part Google Privacy Video Series. I finally understand what cookies are after being online for almost 20 years! I learned Google Chrome includes an incognito mode, and improved phishing and malware help.

Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs Privacytown is a refreshing, well written, humourous, engaging and comprehensive resource. Among it’s many sections, it includes the The Privacytown Protection Guide outlining the role of the individual, government and business in protecting privacy.

The Privacy Overview begins by explaining that Personal Information is also called “pi” in the “privacy biz”, then goes on to state “everyone wants a piece of your pi”. I was already hooked, and laughed at this statement:  “Privacy isn’t exactly a recent concept. In fact, you might argue that it is the world’s oldest obsession – – – well, maybe the second oldest.”

Doug Johnson offers some sage advice to bloggers in his article “Lighting Lamps” in Bloggers Caf é of the June/July 2008 issue of ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology. His tips are sure to keep your professional profile intact, and could also save young and old alike from personal embarrassment somewhere down the line:

  • Write assuming your boss is reading.
  • Gripe globally; praise locally.
  • Write for edited publications.
  • Write out of goodness.

In all my online transactions I also try to follow the advice from my local teacher association; “don’t write anything online that you wouldn’t say in front of a room full of people”. While building my online identity, this has become my personal mantra.

All Canadian educators need to know the implications of Canada’s new private sector privacy laws in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).  Useful information for individuals related to this new law is available here. Canadian Educators are also bound by their provincial freedom of information and privacy acts (in Manitoba it’s FIPPA).

Those of us in charge of school library automated circulation systems need to keep lending histories and overdue notices confidential.

And according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, although “many young people recognize the risks associated with their online activities, they lack the knowledge and tools to mitigate those risks”. Privacy statements are difficult for students (and some educators) to read and understand. As well as teaching students media awareness, educators can complain to the Privacy Commission of Canada for increased legislation for privacy and other terms of use to be written in plain language. Or we can teach our students how to lodge effective complaints.

Working with other educators in a school, a teacher-librarian can help guide students to protect their personal information and online reputation to leave a positive digital footprint for a bright future.

Copyright, Intellectual Freedom and Intellectual Property: The View from Here

February 22, 2009

As Rebecca Butler states in “Borrowing Media from Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law “Copyright law in the school library environment is a gray, cloudy entity with many interpretations.”  What I’ve attempted to do is clear up some of the gray, cloudy areas for myself, staff and students in my little corner of the world.  Here’s a description of my new, clearer view on this topic from the beautiful school library in our 110 year heritage designated school building.


As Doug Johnson explains in Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad © As information professionals, we have a responsibility to make sure our staff and students have access to all of the copyrighted materials they’re entitled to—and we also need to help them develop a healthy respect for copyright laws.”

My husband recently reminded me of  this Aboriginal perspective of knowledge/intellectual property  and how Aboriginal Elders always preface everything they share with acknowledging those that came before them. An Aboriginal perspective acknowledges that all knowledge is a culmination of a collective process, so how can anyone claim ownership over that which belongs to everyone? Yet, there are some cultural traditions associated with this oral culture  that must be respected when sharing traditional songs and teachings.

When viewing this issue from a social constructivist perspective it’s easy to see that everything we learn hinges upon what we already know. This in itself is a humbling recognition, and serves to inspire those adhering to a constructivism to consciously recognize and acknowledge that all knowledge is a cumulative, highly social entity. All great minds stand on the shoulders of other great minds. Our current ways and means of acknowledging sources does not always capture this. For example, I need to thank Joanie and Sheila here for guiding a discussion related to this topic, and for all the insights offered by my online learning buddies, and to Joanne for providing a great reading list.

Perhaps the most exciting trend today is Creative Commons licensing based on the recognition that many content creators believe good ideas and work are for sharing, so  a formal means has been provided by which to do so. It is worth emphasizing that when using Creative Commons licensed materials, one must attribute the creator.

I must thank Anne-Marie Gordon turrean / from my Twitter Network for sharing this  acknowledgement/sources/attribution sample. It’s from this VoiceThread school project.


In Canada, we’re awaiting the passing of Bill C-61 on copyright and can look forward to Dr. John Tooth’s highly anticipated Canadian copyright book “in layman’s terms”.

What can I do as a Teacher-librarian in the meantime? – LOTS!

There is plenty I  can do to help staff and students and  find their own personal comfort levels in times of uncertainty when accessing others’ intellectual property. I must first acknowledge Annette Lamb for her description of 8 roles for a T-L to take action in the article: Intellectual Freedom for Youth which helped me form the following list for my own personal action plan:

  • Consult, and if possible involve, Aboriginal Elders and community when sharing traditional songs, art, teachings and knowledge.
  • Promote Intellectual Freedom with students – use readings  the from ALA’s Kids, Know Your Rights! – Add Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury to the list for Senior high and adult students.
  • Teach the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship as outlined in Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship:
  • Examine Web 2.0 Terms of Service agreements to provide clarification for staff and  students.
  1. For example, examine  Google Docs Terms of Service  to see how ownership is retained by Google Docs, then pass this information on to staff and students.
  2. Examine VoiceThread’s terms of use to learn that all uploaded content remains the property of the owner/creator.
  3. Ask students to examine terms of use and find out how they feel about Facebook’s new terms of use which retain ownership of the content posted there.
  • Encourage blogging as student assignments because academic honesty is “built in”.  Just knowing they’re writing for a  global audience compells students to be  accountable. Others (including classmates) may read their work and challenge ownership/authenticity. Blogging also allows students to link to their electronic sources of information easily and it’s easy for teachers to verify the sources of information.
  • When a teacher asks me to come and do a talk on plagiarism, I  turn it around and talk about academic honesty, and much more practically, demonstrate how to use Word 2007 to cite sources easily in any essay style!
  • Demonstrate, discuss and educate others on the educational uses of least restrictive internet filtering policies.
  • Make a list of royalty free for educational use music and image websites off the library website like this one.
  • If a student insists on using an image or music which isn’t cleared for educational use, simply ask them to e-mail the creator. (Most often they choose to use an image or music that is already cleared for educational use instead.)
  • Make a list of age appropriate/locally relevant sites on copyright for students and staff like this one.
  • Help students and teachers frame their inquiry questions so that it requires original thinking and avoids copy and pasting (e.g. “What is a polar bear’s habitat?” is a question which could easily result in copy and pasting vs. “Can polar bears survive in a Mexican zoos?” which requires a great deal of both research and original thinking.)
  • Encourage students (and teachers) to use original artwork and photographs, and assign creative commons licensing to it. A good way to start teaching this is by uploading original photographs or images to Flickr, then requiring students to assign the licensing that they’re comfortable with.
  • Suggest that teachers include ethical and responsible use of others’ intellectual property as part of their assessment criteria.

This post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging my husband’s contribution  on Aboriginal perspectives and social constructionist perspectives on intellectual property, so I’m sending him this digital valentine. As we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversay on Valentine’s Day we talked about anything and everything, including intellectual freedom and intellectual property. Thank you Vern.

The Digital Divide and the Teacher-librarian

February 8, 2009

  • the belief that people, communities and organizations need universal and equitable access to information, ideas and works of imagination for their social, educational, cultural, democratic and economic well-being
  • the conviction that delivery of high quality library and information services helps guarantee that access
    (2 of 4 core values – International Federation of Library Association)

The differential between groups’ effective access to digital information is a concern on global, national, provincial and community levels.

Globally the digital divide is evident between developing and developed countries. Strategies to bridge that divide include the “One Laptop per Child” initiative .

In North America the digital divide has been shown to exist between groups based on gender, income and race and includes access to ICTs AND the acquisition of skills required to use them effectively.

In Canada, data collected in 2000 indicates that the lowest income groups “continue to lose ground” for equal access to internet-connected computers. (The Digital Divide in Canada p.5)

In Manitoba the digital divide is most evident between urban and rural areas, and especially remote areas. The situation is so dire on some northern Aboriginal reserves that Winnipeg FreePress columnist Colleen Simard challenged readers in December 2007 to donate through the “Get One Give One” program of the “One Laptop per Child” initiative to put one laptop into the hands of a child in a developing country, and the other to an Aboriginal child in Northern Manitoba.

Our education system strives to promote equity and equality of opportunity. Senior administrators of the division in which I work are committed to providing equal access and equal opportunity for their students, as evidenced by the following policy.

INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY GOALS Within the resources available, The Winnipeg School Division No.1 will strive towards the following goal:  Students will have equitable access to a variety of technologies to enhance learning and productivity across the curricula.

So what is it a Teacher-librarian can do in his/her little corner of the world?

I think a starting point is by learning as much as possible about your students, staff and community. Access to technology in homogenous affluent neighborhoods may not be as great a concern as in schools in mixed or lower income neighborhoods. Skill levels of teachers to teach the necessary information and communication technology skills may be more lacking in some schools than others, and barriers like internet filtering differ greatly between school divisions.

To further examine what role I could take to even the digital playing field, I’m going to refer to the four levels of influence as shown in this model developed by mmardis and posted on the AASLBlog .


Access – I conducted a survey with staff and students in the spring of 2007  shortly after I arrived at my adult high school. When I looked at the data to compare percentage of staff and students in our different programs with internet access outside of school – the evidence of a digital divide is shocking:

• Staff – 84%

• Grade 12 Students – 70%

• Grade 9-11 /EAL Students – 57%

• Adolescent Parent Centre – 56%

• Basic Ed. Program (Gr.2 to 9) – 28%

Our staff prides itself on providing equality of opportunity for our students. Looking at these results will no doubt help our technology committee make decisions to provide even more opportunities to interact with technology to those groups with the least amount of access outside of school. They need  easily accessed, inviting and user-friendly computers that work even more than our grade 12 students, yet have less and older technology available to them. These figures also indicate a need for a laptop lending program.

Teacher-librarians may also be able to help access grant money that is available to increase and address disparities in student access to technology.

Skills –As Heather Eby states in the digitalarithmetic wiki “Many schools have some of the best technology equipment and computer access available, yet if they don’t have the staff, who are willing to make the effort to learn about it and understand the needs of the 21st century learner, than a digital divide exists for our students’ access to the education they require for their future.” Not all teachers in my school have the literacy skills to enable them to teach students to use technology proficiently. mmardis asserts that  Web 2.0 tools are gaining in popularity in education, but not all teachers have the skills, motivation or confidence to integrate them into their teaching.

I know from the survey I conducted in 2007 that teachers have expertise in critically analyzing the information available on the internet (p.3) yet only a few staff have started to look at taking full advantage of the potential of integrating blogging, wikis, podcasts and other web 2.0 into their teaching practices. Teacher-librarians can work collaboratively with teachers to continue to strengthen students’ critical web literacy skills, and also include learning experiences that include social bookmarking, blogging, wikis, and other web 2.0 tools as part of inquiry based learning projects. This helps eliminate some of the “technology anxiety” experienced by some teachers and students.

Teacher-librarians can also advocate that technology integration/infusion remain a priority in school professional development planning and take a lead in planning PD opportunities.

Policy – In my last post I made a plea for least restrictive filtering in schools to allow inquiry learning projects and web 2.0 applications. Teacher-librarians will need to continually monitor and advocate for access to the learning resources their students need. They must also advocate for equipment that works well.

Motivation – Given the multitude of concerns pressing overwhelmed teachers today, it’s important to bring issues of equal access to digital resources to the forefront in an efficient, non-threatening manner. All educators want what’s best for their students so it’s important to outline what students need to succeed in today’s society. Student employment and future prospects can be enhanced by careful instruction, integration and infusion of information and communication technology into our programs. This is where a Teacher-librarian can help!

Should provincial Ministries of Education create web filtering standards for schools?

January 25, 2009

YES! (with a twist)

Ministries of Education should provide guidelines for internet filtering, ensuring the safety and integrity of school networks, and here’s the twist . . . as long as it doesn’t interfere with teachers and students achieving the outcomes which are also directed by Ministries.

It’s naive to suggest that there should be no filtering of school networks.  In Manitoba, Manitoba Education Research & Learning Information Networks (MERLIN) provides Provincial Technology Standards including hardware and software infrastructures. My understanding is that the most vile, malicious threats and illegal websites are first filtered by MERLIN to maintain the integrity and safety of school networks.

School divisions/schools are then allowed to assign further filtering and security measures, and this in my current understanding, is where the biggest problems begin. I believe the Ministry should provide clear direction that restricts  further attempts to filter the web.

Ministries of Education provide curriculum guides and standards documents for integrating technology in education including this one implemented in Manitoba:


The framework is based on the inquiry process, which is also emphasized in subject curriculum documents.

The continuum also provides examples of some of the tools that student could use to achieve the outcomes  such as blogs, wikis, threaded discussions, video and podcasts.

One of the Student outcomes listed on the continuum is students are expected to apply “guidelines for ethical and responsible use of ICT”.

Ministries of Education create curriculum and support documents like the one above, and they should also set the filtering standards that will ensure the suggested  activities are do-able in schools.

Let’s take a look at some of the problems that can and do fester in schools caused by local control of filtering:

  • Information Systems personnel and technicians are often left to decide what will and will not be blocked instead of educators.
  • There is a tendency to become over-reactive to situations in the news involving cyberbullying or internet predators, resulting in ever-increasing tightening of security on networks.
  • Some sites that are accessible one day become inaccessible the next without warning or explanation.
  • Resources available on YouTube like The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest , recommended for lessons on media literacy on the Manitoba Education Literacy with ICT Blog, are unavailable for many students. (insufficient bandwidth has been cited for the reason – but I thought I’d just throw this one out there because I suspect some will continue to block YouTube for other reasons even after bandwidth to schools increases.)
  • Exemplary educational tools like VoiceThread or PicLits that require students to upload images are blocked for student use, and teachers only realize this after the students are already seated at computers and ready to work. Already-overburdened-teachers throw up their hands and stop using the internet in their practice altogether.
  • Social networking sites and the new collaborative web 2.0 tools are almost always blocked because it’s impossible to block the possibility that students will either create or come across inappropriate content.
  • Educational technology staff in each division spend valuable time to set up alternative division-sponsored and monitored blogs, wikis, on-line educational games, discussion forums and even social networking sites which may not be as authentic, desirable or engaging. These measures also lead to inequity of access for students between school divisions depending on the size and expertise of the educational technology staffs.
  • Students attempting to research their carefully planned, deep-thinking inquiry projects are continually frustrated by blocked content – especially if their topic involves controversial topics like drug use or teenage pregnancy, which are often the nature of topics that they’re most interested in learning more about.
  • Teachers of young students may feel it’s okay to leave students unsupervised online, or feel it’s not necessary to  guide the student’s choice of on-line activity because they think the filter is going to filter out all inappropriate material anyway (even though we know this is not possible!)

And the scariest part is that overly-restrictive filters in schools are paradoxically unsafe and dangerous. Because inappropriate websites and social networking are blocked at school, teachers don’t feel the need, urgency, and more importantly, have the authentic real-life learning situations in which to teach and reinforce the strategies needed to participate ethically, responsibly and safely online.

Who will guide our young and youth when they’re out of class and online? Some parents may know how to do this, but what about the parents and their children who don’t know the dangers and risks or strategies to deal with them effectively?

Local control over filtering has resulted in issues of freedom of access, intellectual freedom, censorship and equity. The IFLA/UNESCO Internet Manifesto Guidelines identify filtering as a barrier, and that “the use of filtering software on public access Internet terminals is a clear obstruction of users’ freedom of access to online information” (p. 20) and that “intellectual freedom is the right of every individual both to hold and express opinions and to seek and receive information; it is the basis of democracy; and it is at the core of library service” (p. 14).

Ministries of Education should maintain the least restrictive filtering measures and at the same time:

  • Provide direction that is much more enlightening, pro-active and protective of student’s rights to access to information and equity.
  • Provide direction to make sure that each school not only creates Acceptable Use Policies that students and parents sign, but make sure they’re taught and reviewed at least twice a year in an age-appropriate way.
  • Recommend and provide training using resources such as the Media Awareness Network Resources for Teachers or the  “Kids in the Know” safety program.
  • Make sure students know how to recognize and respond to instances of cyberbullying. Recommend teachers follow: http://twitter.com/nocyberbullies for trends and solutions.
  • Make sure students know how to recognize the common lures and lines used by internet predators and what to do if confronted with them.
  • Make sure students understand the difference between what kinds of images and information are appropriate in an educational setting, and know how to respond when encountered with inappropriate images and information.
  • Make sure students can recognize the difference between bias and bigotry online, and the most appropriate way to respond to it. What better way to do this than to examine the insidiously racist website: http://www.martinlutherking.org and examine the techniques used to lure followers?  Yet this site is most often blocked for student examination at school. Will they just assume its a reliable site when they come across it out-of-school?

I’m a concerned Teacher-librarian, and I know all teachers don’t agree with me. I suspect many parents don’t agree either. I don’t know what’s being said in principal and superintendent councils, or at the Ministries of Education on this topic, but I’d love to know.

If our Ministries of Education don’t provide clear direction so that necessary resources are available to teachers and students to achieve mandated student outcomes, or the platform to ensure the safe, ethical and responsible use of technology be taught and reinforced, then who will?

My intent is to create opportunity for continued discussion, clarification and understanding.  Do you think Ministries of Education should create least restrictive web filtering standards for schools and why or why not?