In my November 8 posting about the American Association of School Librarians Conference I attended in Minneapolis, I promised to write more about it as I processed my notes, materials, and thoughts from the conference. One of the sessions that resonated with me was “Transforming Learning for Today’s Students: Libraries as Sponsors of Transliteracy” presented by Buffy Hamilton, the “Unquiet Librarian” from the Creekview High School Library in Canton, Georgia. Fortunately, the session was taped, and I was just able to watch the recording, since it took me a second time through to absorb all that she shared.
So, first, what is transliteracy? Buffy shared several definitions for what is clearly an evolving concept. Transliteracy, I believe, means being literate across the entire spectrum of the most traditional forms of communication to the most cutting-edge social media platforms. Our students are using many new platforms, including software like Facebook and hardware like smartphones, in their personal lives. We need to embrace these options and help them use these media as part of their educational experience as we also introduce them to new media they may not be familiar with. Here are a few of the points that struck me in Buffy’s talk that I want to make sure we foster at our library:
- We need to move from just helping students learn to helping them learn how to learn. We need to help them move beyond being just knowledgeable to being knowledge – able.
- Don’t tell students not to use Google to search or Wikipedia as a source. We aren’t going to stop them from using these tools. Instead, we need to teach them how to use and filter them effectively. (Whenever I see students using Wikipedia, I never discourage them; instead, I always share that it may be a good place to start research, but not to end.)
- We need to be wary of the myth of the digital native. In practice, most students know a little about a lot of things. We must be careful not to make assumptions about prior knowledge of both tools or concepts.
- We must also be wary about assumptions that all students have access to technology. The library needs to take ownership of helping to close the participation gap in access.
- New technology tools can be powerful, but pedagogy and sound practice needs to come first. And, we can’t rely either on just theory or just experience from practice. We need both, and we need a sound framework before introducing new tools.
- We need to help build inquiry-driven lessons and projects. A sound model is Barbara Stripling’s “Inquiry Model” which includes six non-linear, recursive phases: wonder, investigate, construct, express, reflect, and connect. Many students have lost the power of wonder, since they have not been given an opportunity to exercise it. We need to think of strategies to engage that. (Here is an article that outlines Stripling’s model and includes a great graphic Buffy included in her talk:
- We need to allow students to fashion their own research questions and find what they are passionate about. We need to celebrate their strengths and differences and encourage them to share their work. We need to fight the idea that there is “the answer.”
- We need to include students in the assessment process. The ultimate empowerment is when students can evaluate their own work.