Friday, April 23, 2010

IT and Library - is there an overlap or are there gaps?

Many years ago, when I was a 5th Grade teacher, I was asked by my Head of School where I saw myself going as a teacher in the future. At this stage I had already moved from being a High School Geography and English teacher, to being a Primary teacher responsible for delivering the whole curriculum to the students in my class. My answer was that I would like, at some stage, to move into either IT or Library. At that time I never thought that it might be possible to fuse the two departments into one.

I will always be grateful to my Head of School for remembering that conversation and giving me the chance to move into IT. A couple of years after this meeting she phoned me during the middle of my summer holiday and offered me an IT job. I've been an IT teacher now for 10 years.

As those years have passed I've noticed that the work I'm doing in the IT department and the work being done in the library are getting closer and closer. Now I'm at the point of asking myself whether we are really just two sides of the same coin. And then I'm going on to ask the question: are there overlaps in what we are doing, and are there gaps?

Last week I started a new unit of inquiry on trade with the Grade 4s. Our students were being introduced to a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary, so I showed them Wordle and had them write down all the new words. The students told me they already knew this tool - they'd used it in the library earlier this year. At the same time a class of Grade 5 students were up in the library and our librarian was introducing them to Glogster - she was surprised to find that earlier this year I'd also set up accounts for the Grade 5 students and had them make glogs.

These incidents during the past couple of weeks have led to the librarian and myself sitting down and discussing our programmes - we are still separate departments and never have any common planning time together - but we decided almost immediately that we should be one department as we are both teaching the same things: finding and selecting information, critical thinking and evaluating the information, collaboration, creativity and communication. We are both dealing with thinking skills, approaches to learning and problem solving. In some cases we are teaching different skills and in one area there might be more emphasis on something than in the other (for example I am more likely to deal with issues of internet safety and cyber bullying, she is more likely to deal with literature appreciation) but we are both basically dealing with supporting subject knowledge and enhancing teaching and learning rather than separate subjects added on to the curriculum - we are working within the programme of inquiry, not teaching in isolation. The skills we are teaching are relevant in all other subjects, in the same way that, for example, reading and writing are relevant to all other subjects. At the same time we decided that the skills we are teaching do not have to develop sequentially, but can be fostered simultaneously.

Today we found this diagram showing the components of digital literacy. It is taken from the Futurelab report Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum (you can download the pdf from this site). We felt it summed up where we currently are with the library and the IT at our school. We do have overlaps and for us the challenge is to make sure that there are no gaps. Of course this would be easier if we really did become one department - and both of us are very keen and committed to seeing this happen.

Photo Credit: Library by Pieter Musterd - The photo shows the library near the Central Station in Amsterdam


  1. Interesting post Maggie. sent the link to our librarian and our ICT. One of them will surely comment on how it looks at our school, where the 2 are closely linked.

  2. Nice to know that others are coming to the same realisation. I have just recently had a discussion with the ICT teacher/coordinator at my school on this very issue. I think we have come to the conclusion that ICT is a tool for Information Literacy, but with a gurana boost! I've written about it on my blog. I'm very new to blogging, so don't expect much. No pictures or sound as yet.

  3. I recently came across the same graphic from Future lab, I think that it is such a nice, succinct picture of where we are headed in ICT. We are working for a more cohesive partnership between ICT and library on our end as well. We noticed much of the same, we have a lot of overlap, both are hubs of the school and touch all parts of the school experience. Thank you for the reminder that we also need to identify the gaps that may be present.