This is a special blog posting by Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, to share some selected , preliminary data findings from Speak Up 2014 (data collected from October 6 – November 24 from 1,015 librarians and media specialists nationwide). The final data results will be published in a series of national reports in spring 2015.
In many schools across the country, the roles of the librarian and media specialist are gaining in importance as the use of digital content within classroom instruction takes a center stage position. Speak Up has been following this trend for several years, and I am excited by the emergence of the librarian as a digital leader within the school community. The adoption of digital content in the classroom is not a straightforward process – and today’s teachers need guidance and support on the identification of appropriate content, and strategies of effective use. Enter the librarians and media specialists! From our preliminary review of the data collected, 53 percent of librarians say they are regularly identifying digital content for teachers to use in their classroom. More importantly for sustainability, 48% say that they are helping teachers learn how to identify digital content for instructional use, thus building up teacher capacity for sourcing their own classroom content. Keep up the good work, librarians and media specialists!
Given that the librarians are increasingly serving as “digital content sherpas” in their schools, their views on the benefits or value of digital content within instruction is especially important, especially for school leaders looking to build a case for blended learning. Librarians see digital content as having a direct benefit on the student learning experience by increasing engagement (86 percent), extending learning beyond the classroom (72 percent), and providing a foundation for personalizing learning for every student (68 percent). Additionally, over two-thirds believe that the inclusion of digital content in the curriculum has the overall effect of improving the quality of the instructional materials (68 percent), most notably from a relevancy and context perspective.
So, what is the major obstacle that schools face in increasing the use of digital content in the classroom? Librarians are in a unique spot to answer that question given their new roles as shepherds of digital content usage. With an eye on the importance of changing teachers’ instructional practices, librarians identify that their biggest challenge is helping teachers move from sporadic, occasional use of a digital content asset (like an online article, simulation or game-based activity) to sustained, highly integrated use within everyday lessons and class activities. Principals identify a similar challenge. The good news for many school leaders is that their school librarian or media specialist is taking on that challenge as their own. It will be very exciting over the next year to continue to see how the role of the librarian is changing in many schools – and the impact that these digital content sherpas can have on enhancing students’ learning experiences in the classroom and beyond.
Want to learn more about the benefits and barriers associated with expanding the use of digital content in your school? Every school and district that participates in Speak Up and promotes the surveys to their staff, students and parents, receives a free report with both local and national data findings. Speak Up 2014 surveys are open for input until December 19. Local reports will be available February 5. Here is your link to the surveys: https://speakup.tomorrow.org2014/