Friday, May 20, 2011

One department or two?

During the past week I've had a number of really interesting discussions about IT and Library - are they one department or are they two?  I started off by thinking about different departments I've worked in during the years I've been a teacher, and thinking about the subjects taught by the teachers in those departments.  For example in my last school I was in the humanities department and worked as a geography teacher.  In that department were history, economics, psychology, business and management teachers.  With the exception of history, which I have a degree in, I definitely wouldn't have been able to teach any of the other subject in that department, though there was obviously some overlap with human geography and economics.  So what was it that we had in common, why were we seen as a department?  Basically because all of these subject are studies of different aspects of the human condition.

As an IT teacher I could have also been a member of other departments, for example I could have been in the technology department which covered design technology (materials, systems, information), the maths department which was the home of the computer science teachers, or again the humanities department if the school had offered ITGS (Information Technology in a Global Society).  Here we have one subject but 3 very different departments it can fall in.

Then I started thinking about the science department.  Biology and physics, for example, have few areas of overlap.  What puts both these subjects into the science department?  A little more thinking and reading brought me to the conclusion that these, along with chemistry, are empirical subjects.

So how about IT and Library?  We are both dealing with information literacy and digital literacy.  I started reading the most up-to-date articles I could about these subjects to see what way these are developing in education, in the workforce and in society as a whole.  Let's start with digital literacy - this is:
the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used ... Research around digital literacy is concerned with wider aspects associated with learning how to effectively find, use, summarize, evaluate, create, and communicate information while using digital technologies, not just being literate at using a computer.

Locating, organizing, evaluating and analyzing, creating and communicating information,  - does that sound like something we do in IT?  Absolutely!  The new ICT in the PYP document has 6 strands:  investigate, organize, create, collaborate, communicate, be responsible digital citizens.  It seems we are talking about the same thing.  How about library?  According to the American Library Association information literacy skills involve being able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.  Does this sound similar to the skills we have seen are involved in digital literacy/IT?  Absolutely.

Reading further into the uses of digital literacy and information literacy in education I came across this:
Teachers often teach digital literacy skills to students who use computers for research. Such skills include verifying credible sources online and how to cite web sites. Educators are often required to be certified in digital literacy to teach certain software and, more prevalently, to prevent plagiarism amongst students.
Is this library?  Of course.  Is this IT?  Again, yes.  My conclusion:  2 subjects - possibly - as some of the library skills such as literature appreciation and borrow and browse are not actually taught by the IT teachers.  But should these subjects be together in the same department?  Everything I've read in the past few days seems to indicate that they should be.

Photo Credit:  Norman Foster Library FU Berlin by Svenwerk AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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