Friday, February 29, 2008

Why are Virtual Libraries Important?

The 2002 PEW Internet & American Life Project report, The Digital Disconnect: The Widening Gap Between Internet-Savvy Students and their Schools confirms that today's middle and high school students use the Internet heavily, stating that "Virtually all use the Internet to do research to help them write papers or complete class work or homework assignments ... as virtual textbook and reference library. ... For the most part, students' educational use of the Internet occurs outside of the school day, outside of the school building, outside the direction of their teachers."

Audrey Church in his article Virtual school libraries-the time is now (2005) states
“If we are to help students become information-literate-critical assessors, evaluators, and users of information-we have to meet them on the Web and provide library service and instruction online, at the point of need.” He provides us with two scenarios of students, one of which has access to a virtual school library.

Scenario 1: Brandon realizes that his biology research project on genetics is due tomorrow. It is Sunday evening, 6 p.m. No problem! He logs on to the Internet, opens his Web browser, does a quick Google search on genetics, prints out information from a few dot-com sites, and he is good to go.

Scenario 2: Brandon realizes that his biology research project on genetics is due tomorrow. It is Sunday evening, 6 p.m. No problem! He logs on to the Internet, opens his Web browser, goes to his school library Web site, and clicks on the pathfinder created collaboratively by his library media specialist and classroom teacher. Using their suggestions, he finds basic information in an encyclopedia through Grolier Online, and journal articles and newsletters from the SIRS Knowledge Source and Infotrac Student Edition. Through the library's online catalog, he reads portions of a few Follett e-books on genetics. To finish off his research, he visits a couple of the Web sites suggested in the pathfinder. Works cited? Referring to the works cited section of the school library Web site, he soon has his references listed in complete MLA format.

If we want students to use the school library as Brandon does in Scenario 2, we need to make it available to them when and where they need it (which is often at home, outside library hours) and we need to provide the resources they are looking for. A well constructed virtual school library will compete with the convenience of search engines like Google and what’s more, it will offer guidance to students, facilitating the educational goal of information literacy.


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Arlene said...

I was going to use the same Pew quote from The Digital Disconnect (!)...but decided against it. I thought 2002 was getting a bit old.

I also didn't use it because there were a couple of things I didn't agree with. First, it says that all students use the internet to complete class work. This has not been my experience at all. This leads to the second thing that I don't agree with: students use the internet for educational purposes more at home than at school. I do think students use computers more now at school then they used to, just not in a Web 2.0 fashion...yet! I think student use of computers at home is more for personal or entertainment purposes and less so for school. What do you think?

Did you know you linked to the Kindle e-book version of Church's Virtual school libraries-the time is now. I thought that was interesting. Arlene

David Loertscher said...

Robin Williams and I created a system using iGoogle and blogs with RSS feeds to alert students instantly of teacher assignments and library tip sheets/pathfinders. I think this is the only way we can get in the front of the line for stuent attention ahead of Google. However, tech directors have to learn how to open networks and help students learn the principles of protecting themselves. We can't always be at their side.

elizabeth said...

Arlene, I agree that 5 years is a long time in cyberspace, however I don't think that negates some of the findings of the PEW study. The findings of this study ring true with my experience in terms of the numbers of students using the internet to complete class work. Students who dont have internet access at home are finding it elsewhere. I think you make a very good point in that more and more educators are using the internet with their students at school than they were in 2002. I am still surprised at how many aren't though and how student use is often greater than teacher use. Clearly this is an area where we could use more information as we begin to make decisions about using Web 2.0 tools and implementing virtual libraries. Thanks for your comment and for making me think - as you always do!

Jennifer said...

I agree with David that we have to find a way to get our stuff front and centre and RSS feeds is one great way.

We also need to get parents hooked into us in the same way - pushing emails, having then join listservs (even if that is old school for most), and generally getting onto the desktops of our kids, parents and teachers.

elizabeth said...

David and Jennifer,
Using RSS feeds to get front and centre with kids is critical. Being a grade one teacher, I loved hearing how a parent in this YouTube video checked in on what his child was producing at school, daily, from work.
Great communication and parent involvement, with no extra meetings!