21st Century Standards for Information Literacy: State and Federal Legislation Have Made Digital Literacy a Priority. Teacher Librarians Are Best Positioned to Teach Students How to Be Fluent, Responsible Users of These Resources

Article excerpt

"It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that, too, of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This is the business of the state to effect, and on a general plan."--Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1786.

Thanks to the state and federal government, teacher librarians have been handed a silver platter to provide value-added service and assert their unique role in K-12 education.

California's AB 307 requires district technology plans to "include a component to educate pupils and teachers on the appropriate and ethical use of information technology in the classroom." Teacher librarians participated in the creation and passage of this bill.

In the same vein, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Executive Order S-06-09 established a California ICT Digital Literacy initiative, asserting "It is an important goal to ensure that California residents are digitally literate, and that they recognize the importance of access to information and communications technologies," that they are provided affordable broadband service, and more.

Similarly, the federal Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act mandates that all schools receiving e-rate discounts must teach students "about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking sites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response."

According to American Libraries (Nov. 11, 2008), the federal legislation establishes an Online Safety and Technology Working Group "to evaluate safety education efforts, parental control technologies, and filtering and blocking software. The Federal Trade Commission is charged with carrying out a nationwide program to increase public awareness and provide education regarding strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children."

These acts focus on technology education, especially the K-12 area. The federal act targets minors, and emphasizes Web 2.0 activities such as social networking and cyberbullying. The state act includes teachers into the educational mix, and has a more positive spin of ethical literacy and digital citizenship as well as a broader scope.

Library standards and digital citizenship

Now is the time for teacher librarians to spearhead implementation of these bills. State Teacher Librarian Consultant Barbara Jeffus has exercised California Education Code Section 18101, calling for the State Board of Education to adopt standards, rules and regulations for school library services.

Working closely with the California Department of Education and the California School Library Association, Jeffus developed model school library standards for students that delineate what students should know and be able to do at each grade level/ span. These standards provide guidance to school districts as they strive to improve their school library programs to positively affect student achievement. At the writing of this article, the draft standards are being reviewed by the educational community, with the aim of being approved in early 2010.

The library standards are organized around the fundamental outcomes of students being able to access, evaluate and use information and integrate information literacy skills into all areas of learning. Within this framework, the responsible use of digital resources is incorporated.

The development committee discussed the viability of making digital literacy a separate outcome, but determined that technology is ubiquitous and tightly interwoven with information processes in general. Nevertheless, specific indicators do "tease out" digital issues.

Two sets of recent standards reinforce the need for digital citizenship, informing the standards committee, the teacher librarian community, and the rest of the educational community. The 2007 ISTE national education technology standards for students and 2008 standards for teachers address these issues of technological responsibility. …