Digital Literacy = Leadership Opportunity

While it is essential for school librarian leaders to stay abreast of new developments in our own field, it is also important to read the journals and magazines our administrators and classroom teacher colleagues read as well. I belong to the International Literacy Association (ILA), in large part, so I can receive their magazine Literacy Today. (In December, 2017, I wrote about the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Educational Leadership issue titled “Lifting School Leadership.”

The November/December issue of Literacy Today was titled “Critical Literacy in a Digital World.” The articles in this issue were written by English language arts (ELA) and other classroom teachers, reading specialists, literacy professors and doctoral students, and could have as easily been written by school librarians. In order to access this issue, you must be an ILA member.

From my perspective, school librarian leaders could benefit from reading every article in the issue. Here are three of the articles: “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen” (Aguilera 2017, 12-13), “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom” (Moorman and Pennell 2017, 14-15), and the cover story: “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines” (Jacobson 2017, 18-22). These are my comments on these three.

Earl Aguilera is a doctoral candidate and former high school ELA teacher and K-12 reading specialist. He poses these questions: “How often do we consider how search engines match us to certain results and hide us from others? How are websites, apps, and games built to accomplish different purposes? And how can these understandings empower us to remix digital tools for our own purposes?” (Aguilera 2017, 13). These are precisely the types of questions school librarians who teach digital literacy, including the ethical use of information, bring to the classroom-library collaboration table. We are taught to be aware of and teach these aspects of digital literacy while many classroom teachers are not.

In his article, Aguilera provided a resource with which I was previously unfamiliar. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to “defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation. The website includes links to timely articles that can inform educators and students alike. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom could partner with this organization to increase librarians’ clout.

Whether or not your school uses tools such as Turnitin.com, the challenges of teaching students (and colleagues) various aspects of plagiarism is an on-going activity for school librarians. In their article, Professor Gary Moorman and doctoral student Ashley Pennell from Appalachian State University write this: “We strongly believe the root of today’s plagiarism problem is the lack of consistent and effective writing instruction and the failure of schools to create an environment that encourages students to write to learn” (2017, 15).

School librarians can step up their literacy leadership by honing their expertise in writing instruction and coteaching with classroom teachers in order to give students opportunities to learn strategies to help them avoid plagiarism, including making notes in their own words. In the conclusion of this article, the authors write when students have the opportunity to talk about and learn about plagiarism “both students and teachers come to acknowledge that writing is a powerful learning process, that original work is valued, and that plagiarism in unnecessary” (2017, 15). I agree.

The cover article by education writer and editor Linda Jacobson may be of particular interest to school librarians. Jacobson writes “In some schools, librarians take the lead on teaching news literacy, while in other schools, the lessons are integrated into social studies or English classes” (Jacobson 2017, 20). While we can be excited about this mention of the vital work of school librarians, this is not an either-or situation. To be effective, school librarians are coteaching these strategies and therefore “library lessons” are integrated into the content areas.

In the article, Jacobson highlights a tool with which I was unfamiliar. Checkology® is a virtual classroom designed to help students tell the difference between fact and fiction. The site features 12 core lessons and is free during the 2017-2018 school year so now is the time to check it out!

Perhaps most exciting of all since school librarians are rarely mentioned in Literacy Today, Jacobson spotlights the work of Charlottesville K-8 school librarian Sarah FitzHenry who serves at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. FitzHenry developed a news literacy course in collaboration with computer science coordinator Kim Wilkens. They use misleading images extensively in their course. Thank you to Linda Jacobson for including the work of a school librarian in her article.

Jacobson also cites the work of Dr. Renee Hobbs, professor of communications studies at the University of Rhode Island. “The changes occurring in the media sector, with new apps, games, platforms, and genres rapidly emerging, have contributed to the instability of meaning of the concept of media literacy and added to the measurement challenges” (Jacobson 2017, 20.) Dr. Hobbs notes that performance-based assessments for media literacy are the most effective because they can “capture dimensions of media literacy competencies using tasks that are highly similar to everyday practices of analyzing and creating media in the real world” (22).

School librarians have limitless opportunities to serve as instructional leaders in their schools.  We would all agree that students need to learn to navigate the “messy information environment” and practice using and creating media effectively. Readers of this blog might also agree that school librarians have a timely and critical leadership opportunity when it comes to digital/media/news/information literacy!

Note: The results of ILA’s annual international “What’s Hot in Literacy 2018” appears in the January/February issue of Literacy Today. It’s no surprise that “digital literacy” is the #1 hot topic.

References

Aguilera, Earl. 2017. “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen.” Literacy Today 35 (3):12-13.

Jacobson, Linda. 2017. “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines.” Literacy Today 35 (3):18-22.

Moorman, Gary, and Ashley Pennell. 2017. “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom. Literacy Today 35 (3):14-15.

Image Credit: Magazine Jacket Courtesy of ILA

This entry was posted in Leadership, Literacy and tagged , , , by Judi Moreillon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi taught preservice school librarians for twenty-one years, most recently as an associate professor at Texas Woman's University where she taught courses in instructional partnerships, multimedia resources and services, children’s literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles.

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