As we adapt to continued remote learning, libraries and their digital resources have become a centralising force in the school community. Exact Editions spoke to library advisor Elizabeth Hutchinson about teacher outreach, digital literacy and the value of a school librarian.
Something Exact Editions and librarians have in common is our dedication to providing resources to classrooms. What difference can the support of a library make in a school’s success?
A school library has always been a place to access quality resources and to promote reading for pleasure and learning. A school that understands the impact that a school library, with a professional librarian, can have on academic attainment is one that knows the importance of learning beyond the classroom. A 21st-Century school library is able to not only provide physical resources and space for learning but access to a host of online learning opportunities. A school librarian not only curates and shares quality resources but can also provide media and information literacy (MIL) skills alongside teachers within the classroom. These skills enable students to access the resources needed to enable them to become independent learners, critical thinkers and life long learners.
Back in March, we worked with over 1000 schools to offer free access to digital resources during the first six months of the pandemic. How can librarians use their role to aid in the development of the digital literacy of both teachers and students?
It was so important for schools to have access to online resources once we went into lockdown for the first time. Not many schools had access to quality online resources and many online providers like yourself began to offer free access for a short time period. This made a huge difference to what the school librarians were able to offer in support of their students and teachers. Their skillset of curating resources and providing the platform made a massive difference to many.
Many schools who do buy into digital content, and don’t have a school librarian, find that it doesn’t get used to its full potential. Mainly because no-one has the time to learn how to navigate it or to remind students that its there. A digital resource needs to be visible and easy to access in order to be used. A school librarian can support and teach how to get the best from resources like Exact Editions by promoting it within school and placing it alongside all the other digital resources in a one-stop-shop of quality resources for their teachers and students. Teaching digital literacy skills through using quality content is far easier than heading straight to Google. If the skills are learnt within these resources a students understanding of research in the wider platform of the internet is enhanced before they get there. Many school librarians wrote about the support they gave during the first lockdown on the Great School Libraries Lockdown case studies page. To find out more about what school librarians can do check it out here.
How best can companies like Exact Editions help librarians build awareness of digital resources?
It is important to work together. If a school has bought into Exact Editions then it is important to ask if the school librarian is aware of this, if they have one that is. As I said earlier it is important for the school librarian to know so they can promote it to all students. I also think that a free training session for school librarians and teachers is important. Not everyone is comfortable with navigating a new resource and once the librarian is comfortable they can show others. Creating nice posters/bookmarks demonstrating digital literacy skills using Exact Editions that the librarian can use in the library, can also be a good way to promote your resource and give the librarian something to use and share.
I can see from your Twitter feed that you are a big advocate of the Framework of Skills for Inquiry Learning (FOSIL)! You stated on your website that, “FOSIL enables teachers and school librarians to work together to create independent, digital and information literate students of the future.” With schools shut and much learning self-motivated, Learning Through Inquiry is not only an attractive method, but a necessary one too. How can librarians use FOSIL to support learning in COVID-19?
The FOSIL framework of inquiry is “well researched, up to date, created in the UK and has been endorsed by some of the most highly regarded educators in the field of inquiry learning, e.g. Barbara Stripling” (Hutchinson, 2020). This framework of skills is a very accessible method of supporting students through inquiry learning and research. The framework cycle is a free resource that school librarians and teachers can use straight from The FOSIL Group website with workbooks ready to edit to create something that is ready for students quickly. The forum on the site is open to members, you can sign up for free, where you can ask questions about how to use the resources or plan new lessons around FOSIL. Although anyone can use the framework it is important to understand that inquiry learning works best when school librarians and teachers work together. Teachers bring their knowledge of their subject and their students and the librarian brings their expertise in media and information literacy skills. Both can be supported in an online environment.
School librarians just need to find the cycle here and make themselves familiar with it. They should be aware of the workbooks available from the website which can be found here and finally talk to the teachers about what they are teaching and offer support highlighting these resources. If anyone needs more help I do run training sessions and webinars to support school librarians which can be found on my website.
School libraries, particularly in the last few years, have become increasingly more digitised. Do you think the current crisis might highlight the importance and value of libraries, and encourage schools to direct more funding to digital resources?
Many school librarians already have digitised collections alongside their physical collections and space. Although I do believe both are important this crisis has demonstrated how school librarians who were already involved in teaching and learning were able to support schools far better than those who weren’t. I think what became very obvious very quickly was the need for all digital resources to be kept in one place and a school librarians curation skills were definitely needed to make sure all the collections were accessible.
There has been a massive increase in e-book loans and the use of digital resources over the last year and I do see this becoming part of what the school library can offer in the future. However, the lack of equality across the country has also been highlighted with some schools with access to online resources and the right equipment at home whilst others didn’t. Until we can be assured that every child has access to the internet and a device at home, school libraries will be needed for years to come.
I would love to see more funding directed to school libraries for both digital and physical resources as many currently survive on very little or even no budget. We should see our schools and libraries thriving rather than surviving and to do this our school libraries have to be valued, which can only be done through a decent budget and professional staff. School librarians can only support learning with the right resources and time to do their job well.
Exact Editions has been working to support schools throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our blog to get tips on how to use digital resources in your classroom.
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