Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Distance Learning as a Central Issue for the Learning and Professionalization Process of Professeurs Documentalistes: The French Synthesis of Transliteracy

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Distance Learning as a Central Issue for the Learning and Professionalization Process of Professeurs Documentalistes: The French Synthesis of Transliteracy

Article excerpt

The initial and continuing academic programs for teacher librarians in France have to face major changes in their content and organization. A new social request for distance learning courses crosses a changing conceptual, epistemic and technological content that demands the implementation of adapted academic policies. The creation of distance learning curricula in universities is based on three factors:

- A new perspective on information culture which includes cross-cultural and critical knowledge about information, media and computer science. This "transliteracy" dimension is congruent to the logic of distance learning.

- The emphasis in use and reflection on information and communication tools that are common to existing curricula and distance learning courses.

- The necessity of alternative training strategies for the universities which includes experimentation of information technologies as learning tools, objects and subjects.

Introduction

France chose to create a specific function, the Professeur-documentaliste or teacher librarian, who has the academic and professional status of a teacher but does not teach a scholarly discipline. This special teacher has to master documentation techniques, information science and pedagogic skills. The professeurs documentalistes consider themselves teachers above all, being trained as such, and have had to create their own curriculum inside the school institution without any real program, regarding the importance of information literacy and culture at school. Until 2009, their training was delivered by the IUFM, (University institutes for school teachers training) over two years, the first year being dedicated to the competition exam with a program based on information and education science, and documentation techniques, the second year, for those who succeeded, to professionalization, part time in a school, part time at the university. Since 2009, the academic curriculum of all the teachers has changed in France. A master's degree is necessary, and the training is centered on academic, didactic and theoretical knowledge. The IUFM have been integrated into universities. This change has led many professionals to try to complete their curriculum when they do not own a master's degree, on one hand, and others to start working before getting a master's degree. This has created a new demand for educational opportunities in distance learning, while the reform of French universities encourages them to broaden their offer.

Distance learning can be defined by the separation of teacher and learner in space and/or time, the use of media and communication tools, the self-control of learning pace and content by the learner (CDLP, 2011). It allows current students who cannot attend the courses or working professionals to pursue learning or training process. Without trying to define precisely distance learning here, we can notice that it can be considered by the institutional point of view, which depends on political and economic choices, and by the pedagogical point of view, which implies a reflection on the link between information system and teaching and training system. Distance learning, especially when using digital technologies (E-learning), relies on a complex "knowledge ecology" (Morandi, 2010) which mixes education with and education on information. Traditional distance learning using mail has existed for a long time in France by the CNED (National center for distance education) without innovating practices. E-learning offer in initial Master degree or continuing education programs is new and still quite rare among French universities for the professeur documentalist's curriculum. Very few of them offer real self-sufficient, web technologies based distance learning courses. According to Henri Isaac (2008), in a report L'université numérique (The Digital University) published in 2008 and commissioned by the Minister for Higher Education and Research, there is a digital gap in France which is due to systemic and human shortcomings. …

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