21st Century Learning and School District No. 73

The teacher-librarian has always been an important component in our ability to improve student learning. With the advances in technology and the resultant proliferation of information, the teacher-librarian is now a focal point and integral support in establishing the school cultures we will need to ensure every student reaches their potential. (Dr. T. Sullivan, Past Superintendent, SD#73)

The above quote by School District No. 73 Past Superintendent, Dr. T. Sullivan, is part of a letter presenting, "A Framework for School Library Programs in the 21st Century," created by teachers, teacher-librarians, and Administrators in the District. This framework outlines the integral role of an exemplary library program and teacher-librarian to teach the skills necessary to manage the plethora of information available to students in the 21st Century. The term "Information Literacy" which we hear so much about these days, is a major part of 21st Century learning, and in simple terms is: Where do we find the information we need, and, what do we do with it? Although one of the crucial factors of 21st Century learning, Information Literacy, does not comprise all of it.

School District No. 73 school library program is a four strand, multi-dimensional program:
  1. Literature: Teacher-librarian's should provide a variety of resources and strategies to assist students in becoming proficient readers and develop an appreciation for reading.
  2. Information Literacy: Teacher-librarian's teach students how to find, analyze, select, use, create, and share information in meaningful ways. The ultimate goal is to pass along skills that will enable students to become life-long learners.
  3. Leadership & Curriculum Support:Teacher-librarian dedicates herself to stay abreast of new resources, technology tools, and curriculum and in the leadership role shares this information with colleagues.
  4. Library Management: Teacher-librarian manages the school library in a way that provides the entire school community with access to a wide variety of current resources and quality literature.

The creation of the Framework led to the development of the Information Literacy Continuum for grades Kindergarten through Grade 12. Integrating inquiry learning skills, information literacy skills, and digital and online tools across the curriculum, the Continuum indicates which existing learning outcomes are met using these 21st Century Skills. Not only is the Continuum categorized by grade level, as well, each skill set is identified when it should be introduced, guided, or reinforced. The Continuum is written around the following five skills:
  • Focus, Question, Plan
  • Find and Filter
  • Work With Information
  • Create and Share
  • Reflect and Evaluate

The focus on information literacy skills in the education system is prominent across the globe, yet our District is only the brink of adopting these 21st Century skills as part of the curriculum. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) document, Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007), states, "The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed. Information literacy has progressed from the simple definition of using reference resources to find information. Multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual, and technological, have now joined information literacy as crucial skills for this century." This new definition of information literacy must be introduced, developed, and adhered to if we, as educators, want our students to succeed in this era immersed in "new media" (Ito, 2010). Ito uses this term "new media" versus "digital media" or "interactive media" to capture the essence of the ever-changing, emergent nature of the 21st century digital era. "Just as in the case of youth, who are always on the verge of growing older, media are constantly undergoing a process of aging and identity reformulation in which there is a generation of the new ready to replace the old."

Closer to home, District Librarian, Andrea Wallin, is also an advocate for our school library programs and 21st Century learning. She has created Medianet, a page on the District website, specifically for Library resources and professional development. The Framework, as well as the Continuum broken down by grade level, are available on this site. She has also inserted links to further resources for teachers and teacher-librarians such as online encyclopedia's and information on awards in literature. School District #73 is taking steps to introduce the changes necessary to implement these 21st century skills, information literacy and inquiry, and I am very excited to be apart of this integral shift. Our ultimate goal always has been and should continue to be increasing student achievement, therefore, as educators we have to commit ourselves to life-long learning and personal professional development.