Yesterday, a SmartBlog on Education post caught my eye. It was titled Personalized literacy: Insights from champions in the field, and discussed personalized literacy as a function of personalized learning, which has been a growing trend in education for some time now. The gist of personalized literacy is one that all librarians are familiar with — the materials that students read should not only challenge them at the appropriate level, but also suit their personal interests and tastes. The piece ended by citing technology as a solution for expanding opportunities to embrace personalized literacy and create “a national community of readers and lifelong learners.”
Here’s my solution for expanding opportunities to embrace personalized literacy and create “a national community of readers and lifelong learners”: Hire more librarians!
Now, I’m all about harnessing the wondrous powers of technology to motivate, engage and foster new learning interests in students. But, anyone who cites technology as a solution for learning fails to understand what educational technology is all about. Educational technology in and of itself does not solve anything. It’s how students use the technology to improve learning and literacy that makes the difference. It’s how teachers integrate the technology into teaching that makes the difference. And the most important part of educational technology is knowing when NOT to use it!
Does technology really have the fantastical ability to inspire a love of reading in students everywhere? No. While it may expand access to reading materials, and it may offer algorithmic tools to measure reading levels and recommend titles, technology will never be the solution for personalized literacy. That’s a uniquely human thing. Personalized literacy is something that librarians have been practicing as long as modern libraries have existed. Librarians inspire readers, not just by suggesting new titles to read, but by talking enthusiastically with readers about books and reading. Teachers can inspire their students in the same way. But it goes far beyond that. Personalized literacy is about participating in a community of readers, a community that consists of family, friends, teachers, librarians, and more. Inspiration comes from the community. Technology can be a part of that too by expanding communities through social media networks.
Bottom line, personalized literacy is about inspiration through participation in a readership community. And if schools want to embrace personalized literacy, they don’t need to invest in expensive technology, they need to invest in their school library and librarians.