Think about the “Like” button on Facebook. With just one push of a button, people are able to communicate a great deal of information. We are able to express ourselves and our opinions. We are able to share in a community and to make connections with others through the similarities we discover. And we are able to evaluate the claims of others, judging information to be credible each time we push “Like.” Now, I agree – sometimes we just “Like” that photo of a kitten yawning. But, you get the idea. Technology has allowed us and our students to customize and personalize information in a way that has never been done before.
Now, think about the Common Core Standards. These standards emphasize 21st-century skills and require our students to be able to collaborate with others within small and large communities. They require our students to be able to locate and evaluate sources using technology. And they require our students to be able to share information and to build their own arguments while considering things such as audience, purpose and language. Sound familiar? All of these skill sets are not too far from the behaviors our students exhibit when they utilize social media like Facebook. Those relevant connections between their personal and their academic lives are so important for teachers to make in our classrooms.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot of creativity and know-how to generate such connections for our students. The good news? We have our school librarians to help. School librarians have the resources, training and knowledge to help us make those meaningful connections between the Common Core Standards and our students’ interests and lives. Here’s why you need your school librarian now more than ever:
- Students must be able to evaluate information. Technology has ensured that our students have unlimited access to information. While this is exciting, it is also frightening. Our students must be able to sort through all this information and separate the credible from the unreliable. Your school librarian can help you co-plan and co-teach lessons that focus on the evaluation of sources and information, providing your students with the discernible eye they’ll need to survive in college and the workplace.
- Students must be able to collaborate. Technology and today’s global economy have made it necessary for our students to master collaborative skills. Being a part of a community in which they must share ideas, work and goals is important to students’ personal and academic growth. Your librarian can help you generate collaborative projects for your students that incorporate both information literacy and the Common Core Standards. And, working with your librarian helps you refine your collaborative skills, as well.
- Students must master technology. Regardless of the career paths they choose, all your students must be able to use technology to locate and create information. You’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely on computer software for day-to-day operations. Your school librarian can help you develop lessons for your students that focus on both content objectives and technology objectives. Blogs, digital stories, website creation – there are endless possibilities for transforming your current assessments into something more meaningful (and — GASP — more enjoyable) for your students.
- Students must be readers. Reading skills are always said to be the gateway skills to all subject areas. If a student can’t read, he or she is not going to flourish in any subject area. And the best way to get our students reading is to help them find the right book. When students find a book that gets them excited, they are more likely to pick up another book. And when they continue to pick up more books, their reading fluency and their vocabulary are going to improve. Your school librarian can help match your students’ interests with the right books, and he or she can help you incorporate more books into your curriculum to help support student learning. Plus, reading for enjoyment has its advantages, as well. Nothing beats a good book, and our students will benefit personally from becoming readers, too.
We’ve all been working hard this past year to implement the Common Core Standards in our classrooms, but it is important to remember we don’t have to go it alone. We have in-house experts in our buildings who can offer us much assistance in this process. Collaborate with your school librarians – you and your students will certainly “Like” the results.
Kimberly Shearer, an English teacher at Boone County High School, was named the 2012 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 18, 2011. During her year-long reign, Shearer is writing a monthly column for Kentucky Teacher that chronicles her experiences as a classroom teacher and as Kentucky Teacher of the Year. The column runs the second Thursday of each month.