As identified in the Horizon report: 2011 K-12 edition, there are three major factors driving role changes for all educators:
- The increasing amount of resources and social networks available for learning;
- The increasing ubiquitous nature of mobile devices; and
- The increasing need for digital media literacy so that students can utilise the above resources and mobile access for learning and knowledge creation.
“The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators” (Johnson, et al 2011, p. 4. ) This key trend highlights the importance of why school libraries need to function effectively in the school community.
The abundance of resources adds to the complexity of the information environment in which students work. It highlights the need to continue the highly effective practice of collection development undertaken by teacher librarians to support the curriculum across different platforms on which resources are available. As an example, in an always-connected world, the recent announcement by Apple to introduce iBooks 2, iBooks Author and New iTunes U (Apple Events 2012 ) identified that there are already 20K education iPad apps and 1.5 million iPads in education institutions. Teacher librarians know which apps are free and trustworthy and can then recommend these to staff and students. The same collection development skills used to evaluate “traditional” resources to determine which are current, relevant, authentic and authoritative, are also applied to online databases and web sites.
The mobile devices students use to access these resources are multi-functional and make it easily accessible via the Internet. As indicated in the Horizon report: 2011 K-12 edition, “mobiles have moved to the near-term horizon because of the rise of a new class of devices, led by the category-defining blockbuster that is the Apple iPad” (Johnson, et al 2011, p. 14 ). The multi-functionality of tablet devices heralds the convergence of several technologies that lend themselves to educational use. With always-on Internet it is imperative that the skills required to assess the relevancy and credibility of information, and to then make sense of this information, is paramount.
“Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession” (Johnston, et al 2011, p. 5). Digital media literacy can be defined as the ability to locate, access, organise, understand, evaluate, analyse and create content using digital media (Wikipedia ; Australian Communications & Media Authority ). Even though this level of literacy involves knowing how to use technology it is “less about tools and more about thinking” (Johnston, et al 2011, p 5.)
The general capabilities in the Australian national curriculum, especially “critical and creative thinking”, provide a vehicle for teacher librarians to be active in the delivery of digital media literacy skills through inquiry based programs. For example, research pathfinders encourage active engagement in the interactive information seeking process. Pathfinders provide a starting point for the generation of questions, discussions and identification of suitable and relevant resources. Collaborative knowledge building environments such as wikis can facilitate the inquiry based activities that allow students to engage in collaboration, construction, knowledge sharing and creation. The school library is an ideal environment to engage in conversations about digital citizenship, the impact of a student’s digital footprint, ethical use of information and social responsibility in an always-connected world.
The vision is to go beyond school libraries being perceived as repositories of information artefacts to being flexible, dynamic learning environments; “centres of inquiry, discovery, creativity, critical engagement and innovative pedagogy” (Hay & Todd 2010a, p. 40 ). To make this vision a reality is a challenge for school leadership so that the best learning environment, resources and learning is available for all Australian students.