Fake “News” in a “Post-truth” World

fake_news
In the wake of a contentious U.S. presidential election cycle, researchers and educators are shining a spotlight on critical “information literacy” skills. Determining authority, accuracy, and bias have long been essential aspects of analyzing content and sources of information. Today, this is no easy task for students (and adults as well) when authors of “information” do their best to deceive readers or hide their identity behind domains, such as .org, factual-seeming but phony statistical data, and authoritative-sounding language based on “pants of fire” lies.

In her 2014 book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, researcher danah boyd wrote, “becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age” (177). While the amount of fake “news” has increased exponentially, the problem of determining authority and validity in information sources has been a critical skill since the early days of the Internet.

How long have school librarians been challenging students to determine the bias in Stormfront’s Martin Luther King Jr. Web site (a site often used by David Duke) began using it in 2002 when I moved from an elementary to a high school position, and I am certain others were using it before me.  (See the 7.3 Category Matrix from Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact Challenging “Determining Main Ideas” Lesson Plan.)

Researchers at Stanford University recently conducted and released the results of a 2015-2016 study, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.”  The study showed what school and academic librarians have known through their own observations and action research related to middle, high school, and college-level students’ information literacy proficiency: “Young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (4).

Last week on LM_NET, school librarian Andrew van Zyl of St. Alban’s College, Pretoria, South Africa, raised the responsibilities of school librarians in a “post-truth” world when he posted information about Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement that “post-truth” reflects the “passing year in language.” It defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Some who entered the conversation wondered if librarians should be engaged in “politics.” For me the answer is clear. Literacy is “political” because it empowers people. From my perspective, school librarians are required to teach youth to determine the authority and accuracy of information and we are charged with coteaching with classroom teachers to ensure that students are information literate.

Taken together, “fake news” in a “post-truth” world create an even greater need for the information literacy expertise of school librarians. Information is supposed to be factual, whether or not it is considered “news.” (Even in the halcyon days when people read printed newspapers, reporters and editors frequently rushed to “get ahead of the story” and published “errors” that later had to be corrected.) When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they can coteach with classroom teachers to help students develop critical literacy skills that are even more essential in the online information environment.

I think this recent post on FactCheck.org “How to Spot Fake News” shows what librarians have long called “information literacy” is finally getting traction as a set of must-have skills for 21st-century students and adults as well:  (Information literacy and reading comprehension skills in parentheses)

• Consider the source. (Authority)
• Read beyond the headline. (Authority)
• Check the author. (Authority)
• What’s the support? (Accuracy and Reliability)
• Check the date. (Relevance and Reliability)
• Is this some kind of joke? (New in the post-truth world!)
• Check your biases. (Questioning)
• Consult the experts. (Questioning)

Like all educators, school librarians must continually self-assess and develop our skills. But we have a strong information literacy foundation on which to build and the desire and responsibility to share our expertise with students, colleagues, and community. Fake “news” and a “post-truth” world call all school librarians to step up  and lead.

Works Cited

boyd, dana. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

Robertson, Lori, and Eugene Kiely. “How to Spot Fake News,” FactCheck.org. November 18, 2016, http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/how-to-spot-fake-news/

Stanford History Education Group. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning: Executive Summary,” Stanford University. 22 Nov. 2016, https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf

Image Credit: Newspaper Clipping created at Fodey.com

Additional Recommended Reading:
Stevenson, Sara. “Information Literacy Lessons Crucial in a Post-Truth World,” Knowledge Quest Blog, 18 Nov. 2016,
http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/information-literacy-lessons-crucial-post-truth-world/

Valenza, Joyce. “Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation, and the Librarian Way: A News Literacy Toolkit for a Post-truth World,” Neverending Search Blog, 26 Nov. 2016, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/

“It is the time you have given…”

little_princeOne way to make professional connections and build relationships with our colleagues is to read what they are reading. Many school principals are members of ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and receive the Educational Leadership magazine. “Relationships First” is the theme of the September 2016 issue.

Since school principals’ perceptions of and support for school librarians is critical to the success of school library programs, I look forward to reading this magazine when it arrives monthly in my mailbox. (Even if you aren’t an ASCD member, you can access a few articles and the columns online for free: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership.aspx).

Educator and researcher Carol Ann Tomlinson’s column in the magazine has been one of my touchstones for many years. This month in “One to Grow On” she wrote: “Fox Taming and Teaching: The Little Prince offers a lesson on building relationships.”  I was delighted to read that Dr. Tomlinson and I share a favorite book: Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943). In fact, I quoted from the same passage in the book on the dedication page of my dissertation.

In this part of the story, the Fox is sharing his wisdom with the Little Prince, who has grown fond of a rose. The Fox tells the Little Prince that: “It is the time you have given to your rose that makes your rose so important.” The investment of time, energy, care, and attention that we give to other members of our learning communities is the mark of their value to us.

While the order of the books on the library shelves and empty book carts help students, classroom teachers, and librarians find materials more easily, it may be the time we take to listen to a student’s, teacher’s, or administrator’s story that is the most important thing we do on any given day.

This time of year when the stores begin displaying large bags of Halloween candy, I think of the mini dark chocolate candies that I always kept in my library office drawer. Offering a sweet treat can be an icebreaker. It can be a way to connect with others, to share a success or express empathy, and to start a conversation.

A library that is the hub of learning in a school can be the hub for relationship building as well. Being present for others, listening, offering a word or two of encouragement, or showing that you care is a way to “give” to your community. (And a micro chocolate bar can sweeten the deal.)

How do you show that you value relationships in your daily work?

How do you want others to “see” you and how would they describe the feeling tone of the environment you co-create in your school library?

Image Credit

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. The Little Prince. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

The Accidental Librarian

Brookline public library

 

 

My forty plus year career as a school librarian began at the Brookline (MA) Public Library, not by plan, but by happenstance. Call it kismet, fate, or just good luck, I stumbled upon what has become a lifelong passion for the essential role of school library programs in educational communities.

Totally green and wide-eyed, recently graduated from college, I needed a job-badly. Here I was on the front steps of the public library with no other good ideas for employment.  It was a last ditch stop in a three month job search, and I was discouraged to say the least. My husband was a first year student at Boston College Law School, and I was a breadwinner without a paycheck.  I remember clearly, as I looked at the imposing building, thinking to myself-maybe they need someone to shelve books.

After applying for teaching jobs in every suburb in the Boston area, and coming up empty, I had come to the conclusion that a career in education was not in my future.  My freshly minted resume with an undergrad degree in American Studies and enough education courses qualified me as a certified secondary social studies or English teacher. My lack of experience or an advanced degree kept me at the bottom of the applicant pool. Not a cheerful picture-at least until that fateful day that I gathered up the courage to enter the library and ask if there were any job openings at all.

Right place, right time…

The twist of fate was amazing, and within minutes of my query, I was sent out to a local school library to interview for a position as a library assistant.  At the time, the public library ran “branches” in all the local schools, something I had never imagined.  They hired librarians and assistants, and provided funding and services to support collection development and instruction for community children in the schools. Books and other educational materials were ordered and processed through the central branch and delivered shelf ready.  The school librarian met with classes for storytime and library skills instruction, and she needed someone to help her manage all the spinning plates.  I was hired, and, as I looked around the wonderful facility, fully stocked with shelves of books, brightly decorated walls, and nooks for reading and learning, I was hooked. Somehow, I knew this opportunity would open my world beyond the confines of a classroom, and I was eager to jump in.

Break for a history lesson…

The timing of my adventures in school library land, coincided with the early years of the landmark ESEA Education Legislation (1965) that resulted from Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”   The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding for programs to expand and improve educational services for low income families, so that children would have increased opportunities for educational success in both urban and rural areas with concentrations of poverty. While school libraries were available in some schools across the nation, ESEA boosted the implementation of school libraries in a big way. Title II of that legislation provided funds for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials, and gave impetus and funding for school libraries, especially in elementary schools.  School libraries and professional librarians were needed to ensure equitable access to information and resources for literacy. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the demands for a cadre of specialized school librarians versed in library administration and pedagogy gave rise to an increase in advanced library and information science programs for that specialty. Standards for preparation for school library programs have continued to be developed and revised under The American Association of School Librarians, a division of ALA since 1951.

Riding the wave…

I will never forget the total immersion effect of those first few months in the school library-and they were paying me to be there! I felt like I had been given a special gift. There were so many books to read, skills to learn, decisions to make, and people to get to know, both students and faculty.  My mentor librarian took me under her wing, and provided amazing professional development in all things “library.”  By the end of the school year, I knew that I wanted to have my own library, so I began to take courses that would lead to the library media educator endorsement, a two year process.  (Later, I went on to an advanced degree in cultural history and museology, and really learned to research!)  In September, as I returned for my second year at the school, the administration of the school libraries was moved from the public library to the school district, and the library program was integrated into the mission of the school. For many, it may have been a minor distinction, but for me, the connection between public and school libraries will forever be strong.

And so, a few decades later…

Here I am, years later with experiences in a variety of school library situations, from preK through high school, and as a library educator at the graduate level, still excited about the best job in the whole school.  In this profession, the learning never ends, and change is a constant.  For those of us who relish creativity and change, and who honor the mission of equitable access for all learners, the school library will continue to be to go to place for learning in our schools. I’m so glad to have been along for the wild ride!

 

Image: Brookline Public Library

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3036/2808317102_4fa63f98df_z.jpg

School Librarianship: What’s In It for Me?

tooting_hornsSchool librarians are members of a service-oriented profession. The majority of us come from the ranks of classroom teachers and many of us tend to think of the needs of others before we think of our own.

However, in order to sustain motivation and enthusiasm for our work, we must determine what is “in it for us.” Dr. Ken Haycock who is the director of the Marshall School of Business Master’s Management in Library and Information Science program at USC and a former leader in the (School) Library Power movement, has a famous (in school library circles) saying: “People do things for their own reasons.”

School librarianship has given me the opportunity to teach students at all instructional levels. (I love working with kinders and their heroic teachers for one hour at a time!) Over the course of my career, I have co-taught in every content area, which has provided me with continuous learning from outstanding educators. I have co-developed curriculum to engage and motivate students and have created opportunities for children and youth to use the technology tools of the day in their pursuit of learning and sharing their new knowledge. I have collaborated with classroom teachers, public librarians, and community members to spread a culture of literacy.

But perhaps most of all, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some principals as co-leaders who guided students and colleagues as we pursued the most effective strategies for teaching and learning. I am proud of the work we accomplished together. I am in debt to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers who have shared their learning journeys with me.

This deep sense of satisfaction and pride and the opportunity to extend my reach beyond the classroom out into the entire school learning community and beyond is what’s in it for me. I cannot imagine a more fun, meaningful, or impactful career as an educator than that of school librarian. (Yes, principals’ work is meaningful and high impact, but I suspect it is not as much fun!) The desire to spread the potential impact of professional school librarians on teaching and learning and to help future school librarians embrace a leadership role is why I am a school librarian educator today. (That and the fact that I can no longer serve in a school library the way it should be done; I cannot be on my feet from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every school day!)

Tooting our own horns can be difficult for some of our school librarian colleagues. But sharing our essential contribution to teaching and learning is our responsibility. The photograph above of school librarian colleagues Debra LaPlante, Diane Skorupski, and me was taken at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005. We had just completed a collaborative presentation about classroom-library collaboration for instruction called “Sharing Our Exemplary Work, or Why We Should Publish Our Collaborative Lesson Plans.”

Let’s keep on showing other educators and administrators why school librarians are even more needed today than ever before. Let’s exceed our own expectations as instructional partners and leaders in education. And let’s achieve this together.

Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon used with permission

How I Became a School Librarian

This month the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how we got into the school library profession and why we love it. Thank you to co-blogger Karla Collins for suggesting this topic, which seems fitting for February. I look forward to reading the BACC co-bloggers’ stories, and we hope BACC readers will share their stories  as well.

heart_slibrarianshipIn 1989 when our family moved to Tucson, classroom teaching jobs were scare. (I had been a fifth-grade teacher in California.) At my husband’s suggestion, I took a high school principal out to dinner to ask her what my future prospects might be. Over dessert, Carolyn asked me what I enjoyed about being a teacher.

I told her I loved to read and discuss books with kids, and how satisfying it was for me to watch students grow as readers and writers. (I especially loved our adventures in writing poetry and the poetry book students created at the end of the year, a copy of which I still have.) I enjoyed getting students excited about research and doing group projects. I shared with her that students had maximized the use of the one (!) computer station in our classroom, which we used for writing activities.

Carolyn’s response took me totally by surprise. “Well, then, you should be a librarian!” Our K-8 school in California had had a “book room” and a teacher who was assigned part time to attempt to keep it in order. There was no librarian or library program. It had never ever occurred to me to pursue a career in librarianship.

Carolyn introduced me to Betty, the librarian in her school, and I started volunteering the next week. I fell in love wholeheartedly with the library (the way I had as child selecting my books from the public library bookmobile that came to my elementary school). Students came into this high school library with whole classes, in small groups, and independently to research curriculum subjects and topics of personal interest. The librarian pre-planned lessons with teachers. There were books, books, and more books, as well as periodicals and more computers than I had ever seen in one room in a school (ten maybe?). And the room itself was spacious enough to have many activities all happening at once. There was something about the openness, the possibility, the ever-changing environment in that library that made me realize I had found my teaching “home.”

By January, 1990, I had been accepted into the Master’s program at the then Graduate School of Library Science at the University of Arizona. (Later, Betty was one of my instructors.) In the foundations course that first semester, I learned that the core values of librarianship aligned with my personal values. I landed my first school librarian position at Elvira Elementary School in 1991, the year before I completed my degree. Since then I have served as a school librarian at four different elementary schools, as a second librarian at a comprehensive high school, and on one combined junior high/high school campus.

In addition to being a librarian, I have held many jobs, but my greatest satisfaction has been serving as a collaborating school librarian on school campuses where administrators and educators worked as a team with a shared commitment to building a culture of collaboration and a culture of learning with students in our schools.

On Thursday, I will share what’s in it (school librarianship) for me. Coincidentally, TWU graduate students are also sharing and discussing this topic this week as well.

Word Cloud  created at Tagxedo.com