Indigenous History, Land, and Climate Justice

Photograph of Multi-colored Indian CornNovember is American Indigenous Peoples Month/Native American Heritage Month. It is also when many U.S. families celebrate Thanksgiving, a harvest festival, the origin of which as we learned in elementary school, was a feast that included Wampanoag people and Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1621.

In American Indian cultures across this land, there are perspectives on Thanksgiving that reflect the broader historical and devastating consequences that resulted from this shared feast and subsequent deadly conflicts between colonizers and Indigenous peoples. (See the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian “Thanksgiving” resources  and “Transforming Teaching and Learning about Native Americans” resources, part of the Native Knowledge 360° Education Initiative.)

Land Statement Acknowledgments
In 2020, a growing number of non-Indians are recognizing the fact that the land on which we live belongs to the Indigenous people who lived on this soil long before White arrival.

As an acknowledgment of that fact, many individuals and organizations are developing land statements. There are websites that help land statement writers examine their motives, their minds, and their hearts as they compose an acknowledgment that honors and shows respect for the Indigenous history of the land on which they live and work.

When I crafted a land statement for this blog and when I collaborated with members of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) to create one for the organization, we used the guidance found on the Native Governance Center’s “A Guide to Indigenous Land Acknowledgement” website and in the case of AzLA feedback from the tribal members of our association.

I live in Tucson sixty miles from the Mexican border. Today, the Tohono O’odham American Indians live on approximately 3 million acres to the west and south of Tucson. Their reservation extends into northern Sonora, Mexico and is larger than the state of Delaware. O’odham also live off reservation throughout Arizona and in communities across the country.

This is the land acknowledgement you will find on the About page of this blog:

Land Statement Acknowledgement: I post to this blog and share information from my home in Tucson, Arizona, which is built upon the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham and their ancestors the Hohokam. Their care and keeping of this land allow me to live here today.

The Tohono O’odham
Our Tucson community is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and culture. Ten percent of the students at Elvira Elementary School, where long ago I served my first year as a school librarian, were Tohono O’odham children who were bussed into Tucson from the nearby San Xavier District of their reservation. This was a first-time experience for me teaching and learning with and from American Indian students and families. That year at Elvira made a lasting impact on my teaching, writing, and my life. (See 12/18/29 “Gifts of Windows and Mirrors” blog post.)

The Tohono O’odham are not well known outside of the Southwest. Some years ago when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC first opened, I had the opportunity to visit and was pleased to see O’odham culture and art included in an exhibit.

I have since followed other NMAI events that have included O’odham culture and knowledge like this lecture by Terrol Dew Johnson, founder of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), “Living Earth 2019.” In his talk, he shares native food ways and how TOCA guides O’odham people in reconnecting with traditional farming, harvesting, processing, and preparing local food.

Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice
Last September 12, 2020 on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Smithsonian hosted a Virtual Indigenous People’s Teach-In: Food and Water Justice. Teaching for Change offers a webpage devoted to a recap of the keynote, workshops, and teaching resources that grew out of this professional development opportunity.

In collaboration, the Zinn Education Project offers a lesson plan for middle and high school students: “Stories from the Climate Crisis: A Mixer.”  The Zinn Project also has a book of resources and activities titled A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis.

The NMAI also offers “American Indian Resources to Environmental Challenges” resources to share projects today’s Indigenous peoples are leading to continue their stewardship of the land.

Gratitude
As you consider your blessings at this time in our shared history, I hope you will pause to acknowledge and give thanks for the land on which you live and work. As school librarians, I hope you will also recommit to teaching and coteaching with classroom teacher colleagues for social and climate justice and enlist young people in learning about and caring deeply for our Earth and its peoples.

Image Credit

Ulleo. “Corn.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/corn-harvest-food-ornamental-corn-3663086/

Digital Learning: SIFT Meets Reading Comprehension Strategies

Image of Laptop with Books on the Screen and this text: Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.Since computers entered libraries (and classrooms), students have been reading on screens. The difference today during the pandemic is that many students are reading exclusively online. This means that during this academic school year, more K-12 students than ever before will be engaging with digital texts.

An 11/11/20 Knowledge Quest blog post by Elizabeth Pelayo, librarian at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles, Illinois, brought this situation into sharp relief for me: “Print Nonfiction vs Databases.”

Elizabeth’s post reminded me of the challenges of allocating funds for library collections during tight budget times (and a pandemic). Her post also brought back a comment a high school junior made to me in 2010 when attempting to use a database during an inquiry project related to Harlem Renaissance literature and the arts: “Dr. M., can’t I just use a book?”

I agree with Elizabeth’s conclusion that students need both paper print and digital information sources. Her conclusion also aligns with Kathy Lester’s perspective in her 10/26/20 KQ post “Access to Print Books? Yes!

Comprehension Using Digital Texts
I think it is critical that all school librarians and educators, including administrators, read the research referenced in Jill Barshay’s The Hechinger Report article “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens” (2019). This is essential information if we are not only focused on providing access to paper print and digital resources but also committed to ensuring readers comprehend what they read.

This research finding should give us direction: “The excessive confidence of screen readers (with regard to their comprehension) is important, (researcher Virginia) Clinton said, because people who overestimate their abilities are likely to put in less effort. The less effort a person puts into a reading passage, the less they are likely to comprehend. That’s because reading comprehension, like all learning, isn’t easy and requires work” (Barshay 2019). (Emphasis added.)

As noted in Barshay’s article, the genre of the text figures into the mix. When Clinton’s research separated out studies in which students had read narrative fiction, there was no benefit to paper over screens, “but for nonfiction information texts, the advantage for paper stands out” (Barshay 2019).

Physical/digital access without intellectual access does not support traditional or any other literacy.

Connections to Inquiry Learning
Today, when students are engaged in remote and hybrid inquiry learning, they will be even more inclined to use digital texts accessed exclusively from the web in their information search process. Sorting fact from fiction, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and outright lies during free-range web searches requires the “work” that Clinton’s research supports.

SIFT + Comprehension Strategies = Critical Thinking
In a recent School Library Journal blog post “Enough with the CRAAP: We’re Just Not Doing It Right,” Joyce Valenza makes a research-based case for reassessing and changing the way we teach validating online information. I have never used the CRAAP test in my teaching. I have not found this apparently linear list useful to students. (Not to mention that I find the acronym off-putting.) On the other hand, I have used graphic organizers that I hope have led students to dig deeper when they are analyzing a source of information.

In her post, Joyce cites “Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers,” research from the Stanford History Education Group. Joyce’s post and SHEG’s research finding should be a wake-up call for school librarians. It’s time to rethink how we teach digital literacy. (I encourage you read both Joyce’s post and the SHEG study.)

Joyce also cites Mike Caulfield’s “SIFT (The Four Moves).” For me, the SIFT process is aligned with and reinforces reading comprehension strategies that (upper grade) students should know and be able to apply. Parenthetical are mine.

Stop
Ask yourself if you know this website and the reputations of its authors. (“Stop” is precisely what readers are advised to do in order to self-assess their comprehension. Questioning and monitoring comprehension are reading comprehension strategies.)

Review Your Purpose
How will you use this information? (Reconnecting with the purpose for reading is a “fix-up option” reading comprehension strategy.)

Here Caulfield makes a distinction between next steps for a shallow or deeper investigation. Since this discussion focuses on students who are engaged in inquiry learning, school librarians and coteachers would guide them on to:

Investigating the source (building background knowledge)

Finding trusted coverage (determining main ideas and questioning the text until trusted information is found)

Tracing claims, quotes, and media back to the original context (verifying background knowledge) (Caulfield 2019).

And for me, at this point, educators stress the importance of deeply examining the author’s purpose, bias, and perspective, which is when students will make inferences combining their background knowledge with the evidence in the text (yet another reading comprehension strategy).

Digital Reading Comprehension
At this time as new practices are developing in instruction, it is essential that we have focused conversations with education decision-makers about how student read for meaning (reading comprehension), engage in inquiry, and determine the reliability of digital information.

AASL’s own “The School Librarian’s Role in Reading Position Statement” is also a rich resource for engaging in this conversation with decision-makers.

Collaborate!
The skills we have traditionally considered “information literacy” must not be separated from reading comprehension strategies, inquiry, and critical thinking. All of these tools—working in various combinations—help students analyze and make sense of texts. This is essential work for today’s students. Educators must teach these skills and motivate students to practice them—consistently—most especially in the free-range web learning environment.

In an SLJ article, Irene C. Fountas, professor in the School of Education at Lesley University in Cambridge and Gay Su Pinnell, professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Ohio State University, were quoted: “Having a library is a treasure, and having a librarian is a gift. And when reading teachers, classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians come together as a team, their collective knowledge about texts can help every child love to read independently, love to read in their classroom, and love to read at home” (Parrott 2017). (Emphasis added.)

Working together as a team, educators can also ensure that students deeply analyze and comprehend the “informational texts” they read in paper print and on their screens. School librarians can be leaders who make (digital) literacy teaching teams effective for the benefit of students.

Works Cited

Barshay, Jill. 2019. “Evidence Increases for Reading on Paper Instead of Screens.” The Hechinger Report, https://hechingerreport.org/evidence-increases-for-reading-on-paper-instead-of-screens/

Caulfield, Mike. 2019. “SIFT (The Four Moves).” https://hapgood.us/2019/06/19/sift-the-four-moves/

Parrott, Kiera. 2017. “Fountas and Pinnell Say Librarians Should Guide Readers by Interest, Not Level,” School Library Journal, https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=fountas-pinnell-say-librarians-guide-readers-interest-not-level

Valenza, Joyce, 2020. “Enough with the CRAAP; We’re Just Not Doing It Right.” School Library Journal, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2020/11/01/enough-with-the-craap-were-just-not-doing-it-right/

Image Credit
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

Inquiry Learning Today

Former ALA and AASL President and retired library educator Barbara Stripling conducted and recorded an interview with Darryl Toerien, Head of Library and Archives at Oakham School in the United Kingdom. Both Barb and Darryl are engaged in an individual and a shared on-going inquiry into inquiry learning. This conversation focused on how students (and adults) engage with information when conducting inquiry in the digital environment.

Barbara has been instrumental in developing and recently revising the Empire State (New York) Information Fluency Continuum, a PK-12 continuum of the information and inquiry skills required for in-depth learning. Darryl is the originator of FOSIL (Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning), which was originally modeled after the Stripling Model of Inquiry.

This transnational conversation, “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in the Digital World” was hosted by and is available online from School Library Connection.

Inquiry as a Process
Brian captured my attention immediately with this anecdote. There was a sign that read: “Are you ignorant or apathetic?” Under the sign, someone replied: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” This was a brilliant way to make the case for why inquiry is critical in today’s educational landscape.

The inquiry process involves a continuum of skills that some of us have called “information literacy.” Some educators approach and teach those skills as a linear progression; others apply a spiral approach in which students revisit more or less the same skills in increasingly more sophisticated contexts and applications. Regardless of the approach, Barbara and Darryl agree there is a decades long history of inquiry as an effective (and preferred?) learning process in librarianship and in education. (I was first introduced to inquiry learning in my preservice classroom teacher program in the 1980s.)

When thinking about inquiry in K-12, we cannot ignore assessment. Assessment in inquiry does not only focus on what we learn as the result of our exploration. Rather it also focuses on how we came to know what we learned. The emphasis on process is one that aligns with the school librarian’s goals for students to grow as lifelong learners who will be able to transfer and apply the skills they learn and practice in K-12 throughout their lives.

Darryl brought viewers’ attention to Chapter 5 in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions IFLA School Librarian Guidelines, 2nd Edition that makes the case for inquiry as a “tool” that provides a means to an end—namely learning. Inquiry sparks curiosity and the desire to find out. Barb noted that inquiry has the potential to change students’ attitudes toward learning—to make them more generally curious and to help them realize the importance of taking ownership and demonstrating agency as they pursue answers to their questions.

Inquiry as a Stance
To build on the idea of increasing curiosity, inquiry can also be a stance. As Salman Khan notes: “The crucial task of educators is to teach kids how to learn. To lead them to want to learn. To nurture curiosity, to encourage wonder, and to instill confidence so that later on they’ll have the tools for finding answers to many questions we don’t yet know how to ask” (cited in Moreillon 2018, 37).

In order for individual students and classrooms of students to achieve success, the adults in the school must ensure that this stance pervades the learning community. When all educators at every grade level and in every discipline approach learning from an inquiry stance, the likelihood that students will become lifelong inquirers increases exponentially. Inquiry, then, will be experienced as an authentic approach to schooling as well as learning and life.

This idea of inquiry as a stance connects strongly with my experience as an educator. I believe and have experienced the role of the school librarian as a leader who ensures that inquiry is systematically integrated into school curricula. Leading classroom teachers and specialists to the need to dedicate time for inquiry and creating space for students to explore is essential work for school librarian leaders. Although I have never had the total experience of inquiry being the sum total of the curriculum, I can imagine it.

Inquiry in the Digital World
Along with our students, all connected adults have or have had the overwhelming experience of locating too much information related to a particular topic or idea. We have also experienced misinformation, disinformation, and outright propaganda, and the digital siren song of distractions that are constantly competing for our attention. All of these contribute to the challenges students (and adults) experience in learning in the digital world.

Remote learning during school closures has only exacerbated this situation because the alternatives to pursuing information online are constrained without physical access to resources. Sorting facts from fiction, perspectives from biased information, content that meets our purposes and answers our questions can be even more difficult when we are socially separated from peers and guides.

Problems Create Opportunities
Last week, I attended the Arizona Library Association’s virtual conference. Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation at the Evolve Project, was a keynote speaker. In his talk, Brian stated this: “Problems create opportunities.” I agree with this statement but I often wonder who gets to identify what the “problem” is. From whose perspective is this a “problem?”

In the case of inquiry in the digital world, my perspective is that “inquiry” is not the problem. Giving students time and space to develop curiosity and explore are essential to their development as thinkers and doers. For me, the “problem” is the digital part in that many students today—if they are given the time and space to be inquirers—lack the skills and guides they need to be successful in the chaos of the online learning environment.

How can school librarians capitalize on our knowledge and pedagogical skills to solve the problem of students’ digital overload? How can we insist on knowledge construction in the digital world rather than more and more consuming? How can we solve students’ and our problem with Zoom fatigue?

Is “isolation” the problem? I believe translating our practice and emphasizing interactivity between educators and students, connections between content and students out-of-school lives, and increasing one-on-one, peer-to-peer communication in the virtual learning environment may hold promise. What do you think?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Pichman, Brian. 2020. “20 Ideas to Spawn Innovation 2020.” Arizona Library Association Conference. Online. October.

Stripling, Barbara K. 2020. “The Process and Stance of Inquiry in a Digital World [15:46].” School Library Connection Video. October. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2254856?topicCenterId=2252404.

Image Credit
geralt. “Laptop Question.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/photos/laptop-question-question-mark-2709647/