During the summer of 2011, my very best Librarian friends, Bekci Kelly and Mary Schwander and I were each honored to run a poster session at the annual ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference that was held in Philadelphia. We unveiled our wiki to educational technology specialists from around the world. As they looked over our wiki, the most low tech option was getting the most attention! I was surprised, but it also made sense! Paperslides are very effective for many purposes (mode of instruction, tutorial, etc.) and are quick and easy to make!
We have a new cyber center housed in the library. While, invade may be a strong word, we do see a consistent stream of students every day utilizing the Cyber Center!!!
Who knows??? With predictions of more and more students who will take advantage of cyber learning (whether hybrid as they are also enrolled in brick and mortar classes or solely cyber) we want and need the library to be a part of the action!
Cyber Students are my Students, too! The Role and Responsibility of the Library Media Specialist
We are witnesses to an education system which is rapidly changing. These changes are an exciting challenge to anyone who wants to maximize potential within the change.
Libraries are a part of that change; we must recognize that our client needs are changing. Our schools often have cyber courses available which are taught by our teaching staff to our students. Any student who is taught by our staff is also our library patron. The challenge is that we may never see that student in the building. Library Media Specialists need to be aware of this concept and assertively work to provide resources to support student success in this setting.
As Library Media Specialists, we are also coaches. We offer our teachers services to help them support student achievement. The cyber teacher has different needs and can be coached in different skills.
It is our mission to support the students enrolled in cyber programs, the teachers that teach in the cyber setting, and the teachers and administrators who support the students enrolled in the program.
Locating it in the Library:
Seriously, I would have been sad if it had been anywhere else in the building. I would have felt out of the loop with the program and very disjointed. If these students were in a different area within the building, I would not be able to reach them. A Librarian has got to make sure she (or he) still reaches her population!
The change required shuffling of sections and even relocating bookshelves. While it created cause to troubleshoot, it has been an asset to the school and the library media center.
I have an opportunity this year to reach everyone involved. Students who, taking cyber at the high school age, are developmentally in need of continued academic guidance.
I am looking forward to watching this program grow and serve the various needs of students. If any school is considering building a cyber center, I highly suggest that it is located in the library and that the librarian has an active role in communicating services and resources!
Benefits of housing the cyber center in the library
- Students can easily access library staff to receive assistance with resources
- Library staff can keep the teacher who provides support up to date with resources and services available
- Library staff has better access to teachers of cyber courses and can offer services (such as teaching them how to screencast as a form of digital communication, helping the teacher digitize content, offering to be a co-teacher on the LMS platform in order to push out information to every student enrolled in the course)
- Administration passes through more often, giving them a better view of daily library activity
- Students who are solely enrolled in cyber courses have exposure to the library facility along with a change of environment
- Promotes the concept of a “learning commons” with a common work space that is not surrounded by classroom walls
- Flexible hours for the cyber center are easily accommodated through the library
We often hear educators telling students that Wikipedia is not an acceptable resource. There is often no justification or rationale to support their claim. We need to explore this issue more deeply.
Wikipedia claims that they are the #5 utilized URL on their homepage. If a resource is this widely used, it is our responsibility to really evaluate our response to a site that many of our students are already interacting with. We need to decide, as educators, how we will guide our students to responsibly use the site. Read on for some food for thought:
The video linked below shares interesting information on just how content is added and maintained.
Here is an interesting infographic which compares Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica. There is much debate on whether Wikipedia was actually the death of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Ironically, one of the most thorough resources on the reliability of Wikipedia can actually be found on a Wikipedia page. It is not only comprehensive, but is corroborated with a wealth of outside sources.
How Educators use the Resource:
While many educators tell students not to use the resource, others allow and encourage students to use the resource. Many ask that students read through an entry to use as a portal to locate additional sources using the References or External Links sections. The sites they link to are ultimately the resource that they cite in their Works Cited (if researching.)
That’s about as comfortable as many educator’s get and it is pretty safe.
Where it gets unsafe is if you go beyond this suggestion…
An Intellectually Indecent Proposal?
What about students taking part as contributing members of our information society by contributing content to existing Wikipedia articles? Is it a preposterous proposition? Maybe or maybe not… We have seen an evolution of librarian’s responses to Wikipedia (as evidenced by the article linked above under the heading “The Reliability”) I anticipate we will also see an evolution with this concept and there are currently groups of educators on the higher education level who are exploring this concept.
In Best practices in assigning Wikipedia articles as coursework to students there are compelling arguments with regards to the benefit to students, the Wikipedia community, and instructors.
However, in another article the quality of contributions have become suspect when assigning students as seen in the section Concerns about this project.
The page School and University Projects offers additional guidelines to educators interested in contributing content.
The Curation Connection:
Curation has recently become quite popular in response to the need for individuals to harness vast offerings of information. Through curation, individuals gather content in order to collect it, organize it, and make sense of it. For example, our students may be researching The Renaissance and seek out videos, images, links to articles, embed full text books, etc. in one place which serve to balance each other. A Wikipedia article also has the opportunity to become more balanced as content evolves.
Students may be assigned the project of evaluating an existing Wikipedia page and encouraged to propose edits which add to or improve existing content. After students research, they are at an ideal point to compare and contrast the information that they have gathered with what is offered within the Wikipedia article. They may notice that a large area of content is missing which can be enhanced by a resource which they have located. The student then makes the edit and links to proper resource to improve the Wikipedia article. Good content should be good content whether it is from a student who is sharing content from a legally linked resource that they have found or another person who does so. The student is not the expert, but the student has provided a vehicle to the expert. The question is, “Is there anything wrong with that?” “Are important details being overlooked?” “In an ideal world, can and should this be done?”
I don’t think we are at the point where we can ask students to become valued contributors to content on Wikipedia , but I hope we are headed there. It is food for thought.