The Council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Youth Engagement Team consulted 400 young people aged between 11-19, to find out what Leicester learners’ priorities are. Young people told us that they regard the library as one of the most important spaces in the school. The modern schools library – or Learning Resource Centre (LRC) – is an important place when it comes to the creative and effective use of technology to support learning. While young people may be confident users of technology, they may lack key critical skills when it comes to searching for, evaluating and making use of information they find online.
Leicester City Council is running an exciting project for secondary school librarians, in partnership with De Montfort University’s Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT). The project supports the Leicester Building Schools for the Future (BSF) Programme ICT priorities Space & Place, CPD & Innovation, Networked Learning & Communities, and Information Management, and is one of the ways we are responding to what young people have told us about their school priorities.
All Leicester BSF schools were invited to attend the initial event on Friday May 4 2012. The 14 secondary schools that are currently taking part in the project are Babington Community Technology College, Beaumont Leys School Leicester, The City of Leicester College, Crown Hills Community College, English Martyrs Catholic School, Fullhurst Community College, Hamilton Community College, Judgemeadow Community College, The Lancaster School, Moat Community College, New College, Rushey Mead Secondary School, Sir Jonathan North Community College, and Soar Valley College.
The day event was designed to provide staff across the city working in and with school libraries with an opportunity to meet, compare and share practice. It provided school library staff across the city with encouragement in terms of their personal professional development, supporting critical reflection on of their role and of the role of the LRC.
The event focused on the relevance and use of technology for their learners and the relationship of their role and of the LRC to digital environments, supporting staff in considering the use and design of the physical LRC environment, and encouraging staff to think about the relationship and potential of digital environments.
The school staff attending varied in terms of their skills and familiarity with the use of technology to support learners and to promote their libraries, so they were provided with introductory links to information on a range of services and platforms so that they could familiarise themselves ahead of time with some of the tools school librarians are currently using.
LRC Connect – Introduction to some tech services and practices May 2012 (PDF)
The day event and workshop brought together experts from across the UK to work with school LRC/library staff to look at:
• What is the role of the LRC in a digital age?
• What is the latest thinking around LRC design and use of space?
• What kind of digital search, evaluation and study skills do learners need?
• How are school libraries around the country meeting the challenge of ‘Google and Wikipedia by default’?
Laura Taylor has worked throughout her 35 year career in children’s, schools and school library services. Her particular interests are in developing libraries at the heart of the school and she sees it as essential that school librarians seize the opportunities presented by digital technologies to ensure that their libraries are embedded in the curriculum and equipped to enthuse and engage students in their reading for pleasure and information.
Laura talked about Design issues and considerations in Learning Resource Centre/library physical and digital spaces.
She looked at examples of good and bad design/layout, helping the group to consider what makes a good school library/LRC, and raising questions about how new technologies can be used to develop services.
Laura also produced a guidance document for Leicester City Council – Designing 21st Century Libraries/Learning Spaces. This report was created to support schools in thinking about the use of existing space and in considering future design or refurbishment of Learning Resource Centre spaces. The guide is provided under a Creative Commons Licence and is available for download here in PDF or Word document format:
David White manages the University of Oxford Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning unit. David researches the approaches students take when engaging with the web for their learning. He is interested in how the availability of content and the opportunity to connect online is repositioning the role of educational institutions.
David talked about What students know they don’t know online. Drawing on interviews undertaken with late stage secondary pupils he outlined some of the ways in which students are using the web to learn and to complete homework. Research shows that most young people and adults find information in the same way- they typically use what they find on the first page of a Google search. For many people the convenience of the web is beginning to make the traditional search for information in the library feel like hard-work.
He pointed out that while some young people may appear to be unnervingly adept with technology they are often just consuming online products and services in very specific ways. The majority of young people lack the critical evaluation skills they need to use technology as an effective tool for learning and require help to use the web effectively in their studies.
David went on to talk about the widespread use of non-traditional information sources like Wikipedia. He indicated that learners are finding ways of using these types of sources without referring to them directly in homework. He suggested that Learning Resource Centre staff should try to understand their students use of the web more fully and support them by discussing how to critically evaluate the wide range of information sources they find online.
You can read a related blog post from Dave here: The Learning Black Market
“In simple terms students personal use of the internet is generally very effective for their education but they are nervous that their practices are not valid and don’t reveal them to their tutors.”
Rachael Guy has worked in School Libraries for 12 years -7 at Merchant Taylors School and 5 at Berkhamsted School – where she is Head of Learning Resources ( Libraries and Archives).
Rachael talked about practical approaches and lessons learnt: New technologies and resources to support staff, faculties and learners
The talk provided insight into the work – pitfalls, challenges and achievements – Berkhamsted School are experiencing with digital literacy ( from KS3 – Sixth form) and new technologies. While books play an important role in the schools learning provision and skills, Berkhamstead makes full use of technology to promote the school library and engage learners, including the use of a library focused weblog.
She works with every department in her school , supporting a strong and consistent approach to study skills and resource development across the school and enabling teachers to make best use of the library.
Talks and a Q&A session were followed by discussion. Attendees identified some of their key takeaways:
“Focus on learning rather than technology.”
“The Library and the IT Department need to connect.”
“Strong links between the Library, the departments and curriculum are critical. Resources and approaches need to be coordinated”
“The Library needs to be pivotal to consistent practice across the school – supporting learning, reading, and study skills.”
“Focus on enhancing students existing skills and practices – their approaches work, but we can help them understand why and make them even more effective.”
“Any activity that just involves looking something up isn’t much of a learning activity in the age of Google”
“The library can play a critical role in encouraging reading for pleasure. Technology can help us get learners involved”
“We should be supporting learners to create content and resources, not just providing them with information.”
The afternoon session was a hands on design workshop – with attendees supported in exploring online tools and platforms, and to plan individual and collaborative projects that will develop their skills and confidence in using technology to support learners and school libraries in Leicester.
School Librarians and library staff were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop new skills themselves and explore how technologies could be used to effectively support learners and promote the library space and resources. Some of the project proposals that have come out of the day include:
Developing a Leicester City School Librarian network, using social media
Creating induction session for learners to develop technology supported independent learning and research skills, including advice on using search engines effectively, and evaluating and referencing online resources
Using weblogs and collaborative multimedia sites with learners to support and promote reading for pleasure and school bookclubs
Connecting with and developing partnerships with specific curriculum areas and departments to promote and use existing electronic resources effectively
Providing practical advice to supporting learners in using social media/social networking for study groups
All of the schools will be showcasing and talking about their projects at an event in November.
The message from the day was clear: School libraries can be vibrant spaces which support exciting opportunities for collaboration among teachers, librarians and students. The school library is the ideal space for new technologies to be supported and used, and for learners to access help in using technologies effectively and collaboratively. Libraries and librarians are ideally placed to support both students and teachers prepare for the future.