Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Shaping Global Criticality with School Libraries

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Shaping Global Criticality with School Libraries

Article excerpt

This article presents the unique online learning contexts and content in which Net generation students are currently engaging, and challenges school libraries to take a different approach to literacy instruction. More specifically, it explores the role school libraries can play in developing information literacy curriculum that enables students to cope with rapid changes in multimodal forms of communication, while fostering critical thinking skills that offset students' risky online surfing behaviours. Current research and literacy theory supporting the incorporation of multiliteracy pedagogy and critical thinking in school library curriculum is examined. Practical activities for cultivating these skills in students are presented. And a discussion of the positive effects that multiliteracy and multimodality instruction in the school library can have for each student is imagined for their global futures.

One key goal for most school libraries is the development of students' critical thinking and communication skills. Whether it is developing students' abilities to determine the authority of an author of a content area text, or helping students critique the ethical implications of information on a webpage, school librarians have taken a leadership role in developing students' abilities to critically engage with a variety of information and resources across a diverse set of contexts.

However, over the past decade, there has been a rapid and dramatic shift in the types of resources and contexts that students access. More specifically, students are gravitating towards more culturally and linguistically diverse Internet-based communication technologies and information that often require new and sophisticated critical thinking skills and communication abilities.

Acknowledging the strong role school libraries have always played in developing students' communication and critical thinking skills, this article builds an argument for an expanded role for school libraries in the development of literacy curriculum that acknowledges today's rapidly changing information communication contexts, seeks to help students communicate and participate safely and fully in these new environments, and which leads to the development of a new global criticality(i).

New Literacy Learning Content and Contexts

The past 25 years have been characterized by rapid changes in the social, cultural, and economic fabrics of many countries around the globe. According to literacy theorists (New London Group, 1996; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003), these changes can be largely attributed to globalization(ii) and the proliferation of information communication technologies [ICTs]iii.

The creation of new and constantly changing globally networked ICTs has made possible the social networking of humans around the world and the convergence and divergence of thought, capital, culture, and communications (Leu, 2001). Many elementary and secondary students are attracted to, and participate in, these new digital social networks (Kiss, 2007; National School Board Association, 2007; Lenhart & Madden, 2007). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2006) identified a global trend in students' increased access and usage of information communication technologies both in and out of school from 2001 to 2005. Of the 15-year-old students surveyed from 41 participating countries, more than 90% reported they had used a computer, and 53% reported they used the Internet regularly. Additionally, the report indicated that even though children from developed countries were far more likely to access ICTs at home than children from developing countries, the latter were increasingly obtaining access through schools, libraries, Internet cafés, and other learning technology initiatives (see One Laptop Per Child, 2007; Trucano, 2007; The World Bank, 2007).

This global trend towards increased numbers of students accessing ICTs has created some new and different language and literacy learning contexts and content. …

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