What Academic Librarians Need to Know About the Common Core

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Today’s post is partly inspired by Steven Bell’s recent op-ed piece on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Library Journal. Bell gives an overview of CCSS and highlights its impact on libraries, not only K-12, but higher education as well. I’m very familiar with the standards, so today’s post will delve into the specifics of how CCSS will impact academic librarians, as well as information literacy programs. I will also give you some ideas about how you can support CCSS locally.

First of all, CCSS will affect you because it will affect your students’ level of information literacy upon entering college (assuming the standards are implemented properly). Information literacy skills are embedded throughout CCSS, which means that within the next few years, you should start seeing a difference in the quality of college research-readiness among entering freshmen. This will likely impact what you teach within your institution’s information literacy program — you may very well have to redevelop your program to include more advanced skills (as Martha Stewart says, “it’s a good thing!”).

Here are the information literacy skills that you can expect most of your students to have upon entering college in the coming years (Grades 11-12):

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

If students do in fact develop these skills in high school as a result of successful implementation of CCSS, they will be ready to learn and apply more advanced research skills as entering freshmen. Now, that’s something to be excited about! But, it’s also a big IF. In order for students to have learned those skills, they must have been taught those skills. As Bell suggests in his op-ed piece, not every high school is currently equipped to adequately implement those particular standards. Several factors must be in place for successful implementation: (1) a professional media specialist(s); (2) collaborative librarian-teacher relationships; and (3) adequate library resources.

Academic librarians can help support their K-12 colleagues at the local level. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Find out if your local high schools have adequate library staffing and resources. If not, consider ways in which your library can support the research needs of those students.
  • Ask the local high school librarians what kind of support they need.
  • Consider offering professional development opportunities to classroom teachers in your community through staff in-service days, webinars, self-paced online courses (mini-MOOCs), etc…
  • Explore the possibility of developing a collaborative information literacy bridge program with your local high school libraries and public libraries to help students transition toward college-ready research skills.

If CCSS is implemented successfully, you should begin to see an improvement in your [entering] students’ research skills over the next few years. And not just with CCSS. Some states now have abandoned CCSS in favor of their own set of college-ready standards. In most cases, they resemble CCSS repackaged under a new name (that’s even true for states like Texas that never adopted CCSS). So the good news is that any college-ready standards should emphasize research skills.

I believe that no matter what standards your state has adopted, and no matter how successful your local schools are at implementing them, a key factor in college-ready research skills is the library and the librarians that staff it. More importantly, CCSS is a wake up call that all librarians — public, school and academic — should be working collaboratively to support students’ information literacy skills across the lifespan.

10 Tools of the Trade for Librarian Tech Leaders

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From kindergarten to college (K-20), librarians are taking on the role of tech leader in their institutions, some by choice and others by happenstance. It’s a new role not fully defined, but always requiring some sort of support for classroom instructors, whether purely technical support or primarily teaching support. Library school has yet to catch up with this evolving phenomenon, though I do believe movement is afoot in some institutions to bridge the skills gap created by this role, a role that is part traditional librarian and part educational technologist (e.g. blended librarianship). If you’ve suddenly found yourself in this position, you’re not alone. And if you wonder exactly what the tools of the trade are for it, look no further. Here are 10 tools that belong in every librarian tech leader’s toolbox. These are tools and resources that will help you in your pursuit to help your classroom colleagues:

  1. NTeQ Model. Developing lessons using the NTeQ model gives you a better understanding of just exactly what it takes to fully integrate technology into learning. The NTeQ website includes templates, examples and resources. For librarian tech leaders, I recommend purchasing the accompanying textbook to use as a reference source. Also, if providing professional development is part of your job, the NTeQ model is an invaluable tool to teach the teachers.
  2. The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM). TIM is a framework for understanding and evaluating technology integration in the classroom. This is a much more detailed model than SAMR, which I know is quite popular among teachers. However, in my opinion SAMR is deceptively more difficult to use because of the lack of detail. TIM not only provides guidance in planning for technology integration, but is also useful for the evaluative process (i.e. how well the technology promoted deep learning). The website includes lesson examples.
  3. ISTE Standards. The ISTE standards provide a very useful guide for technology integration. One way to measure the depth of technology integration is by the number of ISTE standards that are aligned to a particular lesson — the more standards (there are 6 in all) aligned, the more integrated the technology will be for learning. Equally useful for K-12 and higher education.
  4. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. For librarians, the P21 framework is a tool that advocates for the role of information literacies (e.g. information, media, ICT) in the bigger picture of 21st century learning. The website serves as a good resource for professional development materials.
  5. Edmodo. Creating opportunities for collaboration and peer support is a key function of successful tech leadership. You’re not only providing support to teachers, you’re helping them support each other. Edmodo is a great tool for that, and one that many teachers already utilize. As a tech leader, you can create and support a group for the teachers in your school or district as a place to communicate and collaborate beyond the school walls. Edmodo is also an incredibly useful resource for learning about apps and their uses in the classroom.
  6. Metta. One of the best ways to provide technical and teaching support for technology integration is through professional development, some of which lends itself to online learning (e.g. technical training). Metta is a video lesson tool that can help you achieve this. It’s free (basic version), Edmodo compatible, and multimedia (you can even embed quizzes).
  7. ReadWriteThink. An excellent resource for lesson plans and apps that support multiple literacies. You can browse the various resources by grade level, K-12 (some of the high school sources are equally appropriate for college undergrads).
  8. Graphite. CommonSense Media now has a social media tool for teachers that reviews apps, games and websites. Graphite staff provide an overview (and opinion) on each app, but educators (that means you!) also have the opportunity to create an account on the website and add their own reviews. These reviews are quite detailed and include ways in which teachers have used the apps in the classroom. If you’ve been charged with the task of finding and creating a list of apps for your teachers, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, Graphite admirably fills the bill.
  9. AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning. AASL is a treasure trove of excellent, and often underutilized, websites for technology integration.
  10. EDUCAUSE Library. For higher education. Pay particular attention to the Teaching and Learning section.