Saturday, June 27, 2009

Digital Literacy -- the Role of Teacher Librarians

California School Library Association member Richard Moore posted a notice on the California school library listserv about an upcoming presentation on digital literacy and urged colleagues to consider attending in order to position teacher librarians in their role as teacher of digital literacy (included under information literacy). Thanks to Richard's "heads up", several librarians attended the presentation and successfully made their point about Teacher Librarians as part of the solution for increasing digital literacy in the state.

On Thursday 6/25, Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Research Associate Dean Bonner presented findings of PPIC's Statewide Survey on Californians and Information Technology. The survey alines well with the national Pew survey on Information Technology, so we can see how California compares with the nation. See the PPIC website for video and handouts. Here are some highlights:

  • The percentage of Californians with Internet and broadband access at home has increased since last year. Although the urban/rural digital divide has narrowed, demographic disparities persist.
  • Many cell phone users, including most under age 35 are sending and receiving text messages. About 3 in 10 use cell phones to access the Internet or email.
  • More than half of California’s Internet users access the Internet using a laptop through a wireless connection, while fewer do so using their cell phones or a computer at a public library.
  • Six in 10 California parents with school-age children visit their children’s school websites and one in three get their children’s homework assignments via the Internet or by email. [Therefore about 40% of parents do not get school or student information via Internet access, presumably because they lack digital literacy or access to the Internet from home.]
  • Majorities of Californians think that residents in lower-income and rural areas have less access to broadband Internet technology than others; At least half of Californians are concerned about this (inequity).

Sponsors of the PPIC event included California Emerging Technologies Fund (CETF), Zero Divide, and the State Library’s California Research Bureau. CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak spoke about the $60M her organization has to spend over five years to increase digital literacy in the state. She referenced a focus on government-led wireless research, used expressions such as “[solutions] driven by data” and “Children’s future”. She also indicated that Federal stimulus dollars to California would support Internet instruction targeted to populations needing digital literacy skills. For example, she stated that CETF has a goal to increase by 10% the number of Latinos who are online.

When the audience was invited to ask questions, the first hand up was Jennie Rae Davis, representative for Perma-Bound Books and a former school library employee. She expressed her concern that school libraries, a key part of the technology infrastructure, are losing teacher librarians, the ones who teach students how to use the Internet. The California School Library Association followed up with an offer to identify school teacher librarian (TL) data if we could get technical assistance on data mashing of CDE information showing where TLs exist and where they are missing. Sunny and others immediately understood the value of having visual data to show where TLs are most needed, and asked for assistance by GIS (Geographical Information Systems) expert Michael Byrne of the state information office. CSLA also provided Michael, Sunne, and others with a copy of Doug Achterman’s executive summary of “California’s School Libraries Make a Difference”.

There is a lot to be said about "being there".

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