Guest Blogger for EdCamp Atlanta, Doug Johnson
One of my favorite movie scenes is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A posse traps Butch and Sundance on a ledge high above a river. They realize they will need to “take the leap” if they are to avoid capture. When Sundance confesses that he can’t swim, Butch gives him one end of his belt to hang onto and they jump together. (This was before it was acceptable for cowboys to hold hands.)Having a partner in any enterprise that seems risky lessens the fear factor and improves one’s chance for success. When implementing a new project that uses technology, I whole-heartedly recommend asking your librarian to be your “technology partner.” You will find that today’s best librarians (or library media specialists LMSs) have:
1. A healthy attitude toward technology. The LMS considers and teaches not just how to use technology, but why and under what circumstances it should be used. (A sexist syllogism: Most librarians are women. Women have a healthier attitude toward technology than men. Therefore most librarians have a healthy attitude toward technology.) If using traditional methods or resources will work better, a LMS will say so.
2. Good teaching skills. Unlike technicians, LMSs are more likely to use good pedagogical techniques and communication skills since they are trained teachers. Librarians are understanding and empathetic when technologically related stress occurs in the classroom.
3. An understanding of the use of technology in the information literacy process and its use in fostering higher level thinking skills. Librarians view technology as just one more, extremely powerful tool that can be used by students completing well-designed information literacy projects. Many “technologists” are just now getting this – that technology used to solve problems and answer questions is more powerful than using it simply as an electronic workbook.
4. Experience as skill integrators and collaborators. Integration of research and information literacy projects has been a long-term goal of school library programs, and as a result many LMSs have become excellent collaborators with classroom teachers, successfully strengthening the classroom curriculum. They are less interested in “integrating technology” that improving your lessons. Librarians know kids, know technology and know what works, and how to work with others.
5. Been models for the successful use of technology. The library’s automated library catalogs, circulation systems, electronic reference materials, and student accessible workstations all showed up well before classroom technologies. The general use computer lab in a building is often in or adjacent to the library. This means that the LMS is often the educator with the most comfort with technology in your school.
6. Provided in-building support. Even a semi-flexibly scheduled LMS can work with you in the library, lab or classroom. Unlike another classroom teacher or district technology person, the LMS is available for questions that might otherwise derail your project when you need her. Having ready support just down the hall is critical to any technology project.
7. A whole school view. Next to the principal, the LMS has the most inclusive view of the school and its resources. The librarian knows what is available, where it is, and how to get more. Need a second digital camera? Hmm, the second grade classrooms aren’t using theirs just now…
8. Concerns about the ethical use of technology. Students will need to have the skills to self-evaluate information; understand online copyright laws and intellectual property issues; and follow the rules of safety and appropriate use of resources. Who but the librarian worries about this stuff and can help you understand its complexities as well. Parents will want to know that you’ve been working to make sure their children are safe and ethical users of technology.
Whether you feel comfortable enough to hold hands or not, look to your library media specialist when taking your next big technology “leap.”
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