By Bob Hand
Libraries in K-12 schools today are not modeled on this old cliché. The needs of the current and future generations of students have changed over time, and libraries have adapted.
As technological changes continue to shift the nature of student needs, libraries in K-12 schools have faced new challenges.
In the Internet Age, they’ve remained useful by providing students with collaborative spaces and digital content.
Through new data collection techniques, educators and administrators have discovered that they’re able to further accommodate the unique needs of students in their communities. As a result, technology has changed the fundamental role of libraries in public schools.
Libraries are physical places where information and the community converge. As educators have discovered the advantages of encouraging collaboration among students, they have adapted to changes in information technology and pedagogical developments. Here are ten ways that technology has transformed K-12 libraries.
1. Librarians are Doing More Than Ever Before
Traditional librarians have always been held responsible for teaching students how to select books, evaluate information, and assist with schoolwork. In recent years, many new duties have been added.
K-12 school library media specialists expected to develop resource databases to help students and administrators identify and locate library materials in a variety of mediums (including periodicals, web sites, podcasts, images, and video). They are expected to curate and regularly add new materials. Planning a virtual library space is an enormous task.
New to resource collecting? Check out these Top 4 Content Curation Websites for Lesson Resource
2. Everyone Has Equal Access to Technology
As the technological hubs of most public schools, libraries serve as a space where all students have equal access to digital tools—regardless of their circumstances. New tech trends will continue to necessitate the task of finding new approaches in accessibility in education.
Unfortunately, some communities struggle with acquiring the funding needed to meet student needs, creating a digital divide between students in the US. Regardless, initiatives like Computer Science for All will continue to bridge this gap. Options like these low-cost edtech ideas will help as well.
3. Libraries Have Become a “Maker Space”
While previous generations of teachers have demanded that students passively consume information during lectures, modern K-12 libraries are giving students the chance to become active agents in their education. They serve as “maker spaces,” where students can focus on content creation.
Today, pupils work together on projects such as videos, music, newsletters, and blogs. Such projects reinforce key concepts while giving students the chance to demonstrate their comprehension of class material. As media centers, libraries are essential to this process.
4. Collaboration is Fostered with Technology
Libraries are not as quiet as they once were. As technological centers, they facilitate discussion and teamwork and this technology has changed the nature of collaboration in education.
Whether a library serves as a computer lab or as a mere repository for laptops and tablets to be sent to classrooms, they are essential to keeping students connected. Educators across the nation have embraced team collaboration apps like Evernote, Google Docs, Dropbox, and Slack to give students the opportunity to work together.
5. Students Are Learning Digital Literacy
Despite being labeled a generation of “digital natives,” many students in underserved communities today struggle with computer basics. Digital literacy—the ability to read, write, and evaluate information using information technology—is an absolute necessity for success in the modern workplace.
Libraries are appropriate spaces to impart the basics of digital literacy. In addition to the basics, students can learn research strategies and programming skills.
Digital literacy is the key to unlocking such options, and libraries at public schools can help.
According to professor Renee Hobbs, necessary digital skills include “accessing information, solving problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, and analyzing data and evidence.” These skills are ideal areas of focus for digital literacy instruction and librarians serve as the media specialists, helping students to develop these skills and use digital tools to critically evaluate information.
6. Students Have Greater Access to Resources
Students can now access a wide variety of school resources from home. School districts often make Ebooks, articles, and videos readily available to any student with an Internet connection. Furthermore, some libraries have adopted online databases or apps that offer information on available books. At a glance, students can check if and when a book will be available, and even reserve it to be held. These functions have greatly streamlined student research.
7. Digital Citizenship is Learned and Required
Digital citizenship is required for K-12 students to carefully navigate security concerns and reputation management. Despite an increased focus on implementing technology into libraries, the basics of digital citizenship are often neglected.
While the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the disclosure of student information, students should be taught to protect themselves online. Data collection, digital profiling, and Onternet security are considerations that students should be taught. Security concerns regarding virtualization technology are especially important, since it is often used in educational settings.
Here are a few digital citizenship and security resources:
- The Educator’s Guide to Digital Security
- 32 Digital Citizenship Resources
- What Do Your Students’ Digital Footprints Look Like?
8. Underachieving Students Are Supported
Students who struggle with class material are nevertheless advanced to higher grades. As a result, they’re pushed further and further behind their peers. Teachers often overlook these pupils, dismissing them as underachievers.
This is one of several factors that have led to poor high school and college graduation rates for students in poor communities. However, technology in K-12 libraries can work as an equalizer, giving even nontraditional students an opportunity to catch up through accelerated courses and personalized learning technologies.
To keep students on the same page—literally—use these leveled reading websites, all of which offer various complexities of text. This allows advanced students to soar ahead and struggling students to keep up at their own pace. All the while, everyone is able to read the same materials and talk about it in class together.
9. Big Data and Managing the Needs of Students
New strides in how we can use big data will likely make an impact in education within the next several years. Going forward, K-12 libraries will likely adopt new methods of collecting and analyzing data on how students use their services.
Through this process, administrators will be able to anticipate student needs and further adapt library services to best prepare students for life after graduation.
Managing and analyzing big data was once performed only by higher education institutions; now this process is starting to make an impact in public schools.
According to CIO Dane Conrad, “(Big data) enables us to take all the different streams of data and . . . improve our ability to know more about students, and be proactive in responding to issues that we otherwise might not see.” As libraries assess their services to support data-driven decisions, they will continue to adapt.
10. New Privacy Guidelines Must be Followed
With new information technologies comes the need for new guidelines to protect student privacy. Students’ rights to free inquiry are carefully weighed against the needs of educators and the rights of the parents. The Child Online Privacy Protection Act, enacted in 2000 and amended in 2012, gives the parents ultimate control over what information will be collected about their child.
In order to protect student information, data encryption is a necessity in modern libraries. Furthermore, libraries should only obtain students’ personal information in order to better meet their needs.
The stereotypical notion of the library as a mere stodgy book depository should be relegated to the pages of history. Technology access is a primary purpose of K-12 libraries today. Digital advancements give students to opportunity to interact with subject material and collaborate in new, innovative ways.
Teaching students how to use new digital tools enables them to participate as active agents in their education, and increases their chances of success in future endeavors. By analyzing student library usage and acting with relevant data in mind, libraries will continue to meet student needs.