CHICAGO —The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) commends the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, the College Board and the National Writing Project for the recently published report, How Teens Do Research in the Digital World. The report shares findings on a survey of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers about their students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
Susan Ballard, AASL president, released the following statement regarding the report:
How Teens Do Research in the Digital World is a must read for educational decision-makers and concerned community members. The report points out both explicit and implied rationale related to the importance of the need for qualified school librarians to be at the forefront of collaborative instructional design, delivery and assessment related to the development of effective student researchers. The study validates much of what school librarians observe as they work with students, including the positive impact of greater access to a wider variety of digital resources and engaging multimedia.
The survey results underscore the importance of constructing research assignments that have relevance to students in order to ensure that they are interested enough to delve more deeply and beyond the surface Web. School librarians, like the members of the focus groups, are equally concerned that the Internet, rather than being one of many research tools students rely on, is becoming the only tool some students use to conduct their research. School library professionals are in tune to the fact that students are not as strategic as they need to be if they are to develop deep knowledge and understanding in an area of inquiry. Cuts to school library program budgets limit access to subscription and undernet Web resources, and there is a danger of misinformation when students use only surface web resources.
The recognition in the report that there is a negative consequence when students are not able to use a library “digital or otherwise” is compelling. School librarians strive to advocate and articulate the need to provide equal and affordable access to quality digital resources and to provide opportunities for that access on a 24/7 basis through the development of flexible learning environments, both physical and virtual. In addition, they are uniquely qualified in collection development and are able to map vetted resources to the curriculum and provide ongoing professional development to teachers, and instruction to students, in their use.
Most significantly, the survey results find teachers do not express consensus as it relates to when research skills should be taught and by whom. This constitutes a call to action for learning communities everywhere to step up and ensure that they are engaged in a strategic effort to attend to this issue. AASL addressed the teaching of research skills in the discussion of effective practices for inquiry in Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. Empowering Learners promotes the best practice of shared responsibility and instructional collaboration with teachers across grade levels and content. Students benefit from the joint development and design of assured opportunities to use the information search process from the elementary grades onward in order to scaffold research skills, dispositions, responsibilities and self assessment strategies that will serve them for a lifetime.
The Pew report, How Teens Do Research in the Digital World, can be accessed online at pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Student-Research.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.