Monday, August 11, 2008

Weeks, Asselin, and Doiron

Day 6

In her keynote address, "Strengthening Global Understanding Through Children's Books," Dr Ann Carlson Weeks of the University of Maryland spoke about progress to date with the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL). This wonderful resource -- A Library for the World's Children -- encourages both reading and shared global understandings. You will find books in 46 different languages from 56 countries. There are 2657 books, of which 961 are picture books, 244 award-winning books, persistent links, popout text, kids' reviews, Big Books, and links to Amazon. You can search by location and other descriptors. There is cover-to-cover scanning, as well as translation and activities suggested for teachers, parents, librarians, and the children themselves. New features include Historical Collections, Exhibitions with global themes, and lists of the titles available in translation. Books included are free to read or use with classes, have been cleared for use through various local copyright conditions. Chosen from "inside" the culture they depict, the books promote tolerance and understanding. Presently Canadians represent 5% of the users; recently the World Bank approved funds to provide XO computers and training and to digitize Mongolian children's stories so that children in rural Mongolian schools can access these stories.

If you haven't seen this, it's truly worth a look ... and then share it with your teaching colleagues.

Another presentation of great interest was given by Marlene Asselin and Ray Doiron: "Sparking a Worldwide Conversation on School Libraries 2.0." We heard about what emerged from the processes of their guest co-editing the open source online publication of School Libraries Worldwide (14:2 July 2008), "New Learners, New Literacies, New Libraries."

As they sought to mediate the journalized discussions of who the new learners are, what literacies they need, and what pedagogies we use to teach them, they were surprised at the emergent tensions that pointed to an urgent need to address the shifting nature of learning, literacies, librarianship, and our understandings about knowledge and knowledge-construction. These changes, suggests Doiron, we can ignore -- but at our own peril! The long-held tenets and perceptions of what we do need to be reassessed in the face of issues of social justice and equity. Our reticence to face the changes represented by the new learners and the multiliteracies needs to be faced; our role in teaching for information literacy is now too narrow.

Even as the co-editors modelled a broader conversation in their construction of the journal, they identified the absence of models. What was clear to them was that School Libraries 2.0 are uniquely created by the users from the resources at hand and afar. Teacher-librarians are called upon by active users to help with constructions and with dissemination of the new knowledge. The vision of SL 2.0 is holistic, both virtual and physical, and ultimately accessible 24/7, where all the learning tools are combined with a wide range of teaching and learning resources; see iBrary.

Our challenges as teacher-librarians are to set aside the tacit assumptions that we are already addressing the learning and other needs of our students and then to shift our place in relation to the learning, from observing behaviours to helping students access and then shape new knowledge. Not only must students think critically, they must be supported as they think locally and act globally. Our students' needs for connection need to be acknowledged and facilitated. They need to be involved in the discussions about the vision for school libraries.

You can read more about what Asselin and Doiron have found about new learners (the Millennials who say, "I want to be / to stay connected" and who wear their technology) in their wiki and in their paper "Towards a Transformative Pedagogy for School Libraries" presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA) in New York in March, 2008.

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