Lewis M 21st Century Literacy Paper

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Lewis M 21st Century Literacy Paper

  1. 1. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 Running Head: TEACHING THE SKILLS FOR A SUCCESSFUL FUTURE Teaching the Skills for a Successful Future Melissa Lewis Georgia Southern University FRIT 7136-YO2
  2. 2. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 Abstract The focus of this paper is the need for students today to know and display 21st century skills. The media specialist plays a major role in this movement, but research has shown that collaboration with classroom teachers is key as well. The need for true collaboration and the act of all educators working toward teaching these skills is highlighted through the course of the paper. Also, the role of technology is noted. Literature is exhibited that illustrates the importance of integrating the latest technology and communication tools into the classroom. These skills must be integrated into a schools curriculum in order to prepare students for a successful future in the 21st century.
  3. 3. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 The environment that we live in is ever changing. Our world is becoming bombarded with an overload of information, as well as a variety of new technologies. As our students graduate and go out into the world to become active members they will be required to be proficient in our information, technology driven society. In order to allow every student to be successful, the role of the media center must reflect these changes. To accomplish this, the media center has gone through its own makeover. It is no longer simply the place within a school solely filled with books. Instead it is becoming expanded into a multi-faceted space where students can go to learn the skills needed to be successful in the 21st century. Don’t panic! Books are still an essential part of the library. Except now those books are being intertwined with an assortment of technology to allow students to become effective users of ideas and information (Personal Communication, Roupe, J., September 25, 2009). This is the recipe for successfully preparing our students for the future. Our society is progressively moving towards a type of economy that is motivated and run on knowledge. However, the workers themselves are not able to keep up with this movement, and are unable to locate information and effectively evaluate it (McAskill, 2008). This fact causes many groups, including and maybe most importantly educators, to step back and reassess our current practices, because “the current and future health of America’s 21st Century Economy depends directly on how broadly and deeply Americans reach a new level of literacy (Twenty First Century Skills, n.d., p. 1 )”. One answer in this preparation process is the movement towards incorporating 21st century skills in school curriculum nation wide. These are the skills that have been identified as necessary for one to succeed in the 21st century including strong academic
  4. 4. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 skills, thinking, reasoning, teamwork skills, and proficiency in using technology (Twenty-First Century Skills, n.d.). To do this, in 2009 the American Association of School Libraries developed standards that weave these specific skills into school curriculum. Imbedded within these standards also lie the evidence of information literacy or the “set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information (McAskill, 2008, p. 1)”. The need has been identified. The goal has been set. Standards have even been hammered out, but we are far from finished. Now it’s time to make the necessary changes. Inside the school the headquarters for the 21st century skills is the library. Once upon a time, it was most common for the media center to be a quiet place where the only action it saw was reading and checking out books. Upon this new surge, that is all changing, as it must. Amanda Thrower, a middle school media specialist in Atlanta, G.A., hit on the new, more active role of the media center when she explained that the media center must now be “…the hub of the building for resources, classes, meetings, research, and computer use. You name it, we're involved (Personal Communication, September 25, 2009)”. One new role of the media center is the residence of the technology. Today’s society has become inundated with technology, therefore it is imperative that all individuals know how to use these wired tools efficiently (Twenty First Century Skills, n.d.). That is why the media center or simply schools in general have also undergone a change in scenery. Instead of only being filled with rows of bookshelves, technology is now a common and necessary component that resides in this space. Within the four walls
  5. 5. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 of the library you will most likely see computers, laptops, cameras, LCD projectors, scanners, and various other types of technology, explained Jane Roupe who is an elementary school media specialist (personal communication, September 25, 2009). The reason for the immense amount of technology is due to the fact that a large portion of information today comes via these tools. We must have these technologies available so that our students can not only be familiar with them, but most importantly learn how to effectively gather information from them. Chances are they will be called to do so in whatever profession they may choose. Joyce Moeller reflects on this fact by explaining that when she started teaching over 20 years ago everything was done by paper and pencil (personal communication, September 18, 2009). However, now she is called each day to gather information from the internet whether it is the standards she is responsible for teaching or creating personal lesson plans. There have been countless technologies created that have risen to fast popularity in the past couple of years including blogs, Facebook, ipods and Twitter. I don’t think I’ve gone one day for an entire year without hearing about or using one of these technologies to gather information. For this reason, many individuals at the center of the 21st century skills movement are encouraging media specialists, and all educators for that matter, to use these technologies as teaching tools. In his article Loertscher (2008) says that we should integrate the new, innovative technologies that inhabit the students’ lives into our lessons and activities. The idea is that this is the new way that our students are communicating and gaining information, therefore we should embrace them and use them to our advantage in education. On her blog, Amy Bowllan (2009) voices her opinion on this issue by saying that Facebook could be a tool that truly benefits both teachers and
  6. 6. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 students. She goes onto explain that it could be used as a tool where students could interact, as well as learn with and from other young people about a variety of issues and topics. Other educators agree. Melissa Graham is a first grade teacher who thinks that both blogs and I-pods can be effectively used in the academic setting (Personal communication, September 20, 2009). She explains that blogs are great tools to teach writing, as well as a way to communicate with students and parents alike. Not only has the library changed and the use of technology increased during this surge toward information literacy, but the role of librarian has and is continuing to transform as well. The librarian is no longer a complacent figure behind the book check- out desk reminding students “quiet in the library” as they walk around. Instead, the librarian is a key individual in this fight to teach our students to become information literate, and are now called to be visible members of the school staff that reach out to every single student in the building. One vital component to the “new” role of the media specialist is collaboration. They must work with the teachers in the building to ensure that the implementation of 21st century skills and standards are fully integrated into school curriculum (McAskill, 2008). Amanda Thrower truly embraces the collaborative partner role. In regards to collaboration with teachers she said, “this is my primary role. I attend their weekly meetings (each subject area meets on an assigned day of the week), and support instruction either through providing resources, co-teaching lessons, helping them write assessments, or collaboratively planning lessons (personal communication, September 25, 2009).” This is a clear example of true collaboration. Unfortunately, I have found through doing my interviews and my own experiences as a teacher, that true collaboration with a media specialist is hard to find.
  7. 7. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 Many people either don’t truly understand the concept of collaboration or they don’t think it is necessarily a part of the media specialist’s job. One of my interviews exemplified the lack of collaboration that exists within a lot of schools. Melissa Graham has been teaching for over five years and said that she has never truly collaborated with any of the media specialists she has worked with in three different schools (personal communication, September 19, 2009). The other problem is that teachers think they are collaborating, but don’t truly understand the concept. Teresa Nestor is a second grade teacher and her understanding of collaboration is the act of signing up for a slot so her students can visit the library each week, along with listing the academic purpose (personal communication, September 18, 2009). I do not want to take away from this because it is a beneficial thing, but it is not the true meaning of what should be happening between a media specialist and a majority of the teachers in the building. In order to truly collaborate, the media specialist and teacher must work simultaneously on the content, lessons plans, and even assessments of a unit of instruction. The task of preparing students for the information age is not only the job of the media specialist. All individuals under the umbrella of education must be aware of what 21st century skills and information literacy are, especially teachers and school administrators. Although the implementation of these skills is ongoing, many teachers aren’t aware of these specific terms, or even that standards exist to promote them. When asked to define the term 21st century skills, Teresa Nestor hesitantly answered, “I have never heard that term specifically, but my educated guess would be something to do with technology (personal communication, September 18, 2009)”. Although this is partially correct, it illustrates the fact that teachers aren’t overly familiar with this movement.
  8. 8. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 In the end, in order to succeed we must make sure that all educators are aware of the 21st century skills. Media specialists, teachers, and administrators must understand the need to teach this variety of skills, and make the effort to steadily weave them into the curriculum. Each media center and classroom must be dedicated to implementing activities that teach information literacy using a variety of innovative tools. In a sense it takes a village to make sure our students are effectively prepared for this ever changing world presently run by information.
  9. 9. Melissa Lewis 10/3/2009 References Bowllan, A. (2009, June 30). Facebook in schools. Message posted to http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/620000062/post/1410045741.html Loertscher, D. (2008, November 7). School libraries need a revolution, not evolution. School Library journal. Retrieved on September 28, 2009 from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6610496.html McAskill, W. (2008, October 7). Information literacy: The leadership role of the academic librarian. College Quarterly 11(1). Retrieved on September 13, 2009 from GALILEO. Twenty-first century skills (n.d.). 21st Century Workforce Commission National Alliance of Business. Retrieved on September 12, 2009 from GALILEO.

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