Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Youth and Their Virtual Networked Words: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Youth and Their Virtual Networked Words: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries

Article excerpt

Rapid changes in the information and technology landscape provide challenges that at times conflict with traditional notions of school libraries and their role in learning, literacy and living. They herald important opportunities for school librarians to rethink, re-imagine and recreate a dynamic learning environment for school libraries. This shifting information environment includes the publishing arena increasingly characterized by a movement away from a "hard copy paradigm" (Rowlands & Nicholas, 2008, p. 8), the growth of a pervasive, integrated information environment characterized by vast quantities of digital content, open choice, collaborative and participatory digital spaces, and the transition of the Web environments from consumption of information to creation of information. This paper reviews recent literature focusing on young people's use of the Web environment, particularly their use of Web 2.0. It identifies emerging Internet use patterns, and presents a set of challenges for school library leaders as they engage developments and continue in their acknowledged leadership role in building information technology environments in schools.

Background

The role of and value of information technology in school libraries has been extensively documented, and it is not the purpose of this paper to review that body of literature. School Libraries Work! (Scholastic Library Publishing, 2008) for example, provides an overview of studies undertaken across the USA and Canada that document the impact of school libraries may have on student learning. Many of these studies affirm the extensive use of information technology in school libraries as an enabler of learning, and the leadership role that school libraries have played in building the information technology environment for access to information and learning in schools. Findings of these studies show a correlation between student achievement and school library programs led by certified school librarians who, across a range of dimensions, "assist teachers and students to search out their information needs, critically evaluate the materials they locate, and use technological means to synthesize their findings into new knowledge" (Scholastic Library Publishing, 2008, p.9). Research studies in Ohio (Todd & Kuhlthau, 2005), Delaware (Todd, 2005), and Australia (Hay, 2006) demonstrate that students and classroom teachers clearly perceive the vital importance of information technology in the school library.

Overall, access and use of information technology to help students with their school work ranked highly in the range of help provided by the school library with their schooling, as documented in Todd & Kuhlthau, (2005). In their qualitative responses, students saw a clear relationship between being able to access information through information technology and achievement in research assignments and projects. They particularly valued the instructional interventions of school librarians that not only fostered their development as effective users of information technology to search for and evaluate information, but also provided instruction in using information technology tools to construct representations of their knowledge. In the context of a networked information technology infrastructure, students highly valued the school librarian as teacher, particularly when he or she offered individual and class instruction centering on independent information seeking, Internet searching and site evaluation, judging information quality, and using a range of technical tools to develop and present their own ideas. Hay concludes that "the findings demonstrate an increasing dependence on, and demand for, a school library facility that provides students with access to 'state of the art' technologies, resources and services to support their learning"(Hay, 2006, p.27)

While these studies identify the considerable range of assistance that school libraries provide students through information technology infrastructures and instruction, recent studies identify a fundamental shift in the use patterns, not just with young people, but the community at large. …

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