One thing that’s been bothering me for a while now is the issue of how much focus on technology I “should” have in my Primary School library.

I get the idea that we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, to solve problems we haven’t begun to think about (Thomas Friedman “The World is Flat”).  And I feel suitably humbled, intimidated and inspired by that idea.

But when I read things like “Educators face challenges to pedagogy and often need to invent new approaches based on the understanding that students are changing” or “The services that teacher librarians offer their clients need to move beyond the four walls of the library building” (p33 and p34, Access Nov ’07, Twomey) in a way that almost seems to belittle the physical space. . .  I start to wonder where the Primary School library fits into all of this ICT push.

Sure, I love paper books.  Sure, I want to tear my hair out when ICT wastes my time when it’s supposed to be saving me time.  But I also really get the message that the digital change is upon us and that as a TL I need to embrace and become ICT “fluent” to do my job well.

21st Century Brings “New Breed” of Child

The bigger issue here is:  ARE children really different now?  Does evolution REALLY act that fast?  Especially in the primary sector. . . Kids are kids- even if they now have internet access.

Most students in my school do not have mobile phones on them (they are held at the front office at our school).  Most students do not know how to touch type.  Most students are not on Facebook or Twitter (and those that were on Facebook last year got the bejeesus scared out of them when the AFP came to speak to them about Cybersafety).

As a primary teacher, I know that my students learn best with concrete materials.  So, aren’t the contents of my physical library still my number 1 priority?  I should say here that I have paid a large chunk of my budget this year for a school subscription to Britannica online (which students and teachers can access from home) and that was one of the best decisions I’ve made!  [The resource is incredible!  . . . but that's another story]

Toot!  Toot!

So, I’m on board the Techno Train.  But I wonder if it’s just not appropriate to go whole hog in Primary School.

I guess it seems clear to me that 21st Century teenagers process information and learn differently because they are “linked in” all the time.  And I know that we are laying the foundations for ICT literacy in primary school, but my students and my own children are no different than the millions who came before them.  They are not some new breed just because there are more computers around now.

Also, isn’t it possible that this hard core ICT push and this idea that today’s children are different is connected to the perception that TL’s are superfluous now?  Especially in the Primary Sector?  Many primary schools around here have NO librarian and some “visionary” principals have gotten rid of their library altogether:  Just divided the resources up amongst the classrooms!  That’s because they seem to think that when all information is online now, why would we want to spend our budget on books when we can Google for free?  (Of course, they also miss the point that just because a child is a Digital Native, doesn’t automatically guarantee him/her Digitally Literacy Skills!  See “Why Can’t Kids Search?  10 Tips to Develop Better Search Skills” on the NovaNews19 Blog for more on this.)

Final Thought

It’s hard to know sometimes if my “Luddite” tendencies are leading me astray. . . But I think it’s important to ask these questions and not just blindly accept the newest idea trends.

4 Responses to “ICT vs Books in the Primary Library”

  1. Mel said:

    This topic is something I have been wrestling with for a while.

    On one hand I understand that it is important for our students to be able to use new and developing technologies but on the other, isn’t primary school about making sure they have a solid foundation upon which to build these skills.

    The fact that libraries are disappearing from primary school is scary. Obviously these principals have never witnessed the joy and excitement of their students when they come into the library and get to take home a book that they have chosen and are truly interested in.

  2. Diamond Sharp said:

    Hi Holly –

    I am also in two minds about the ICT push. I agree that Web 2.0 has changed some things. But, like you, I notice that just because our students are digital natives, it doesn’t mean that they are automatically effective users of the web for non-recreational purposes. I teach years 7 – 12 and one of the things I have noticed is that the students who are strong at traditional, linear literacy, are the same students who present and use digital information most thoughtfully. Conversely, weak teenage readers are often at a loss as to how to use ICT to retrieve and synthesise information. The correlation in my teaching life is too strong to ignore.

  3. qsully said:

    Hi Holly, you’re right kids are still kids. I do worry that there is a very real perception that every single kid is immersed in technology and yet I have a large percentage of senior students who don’t have Facebook, don’t ever access Twitter, never read on line and hate opening their lap tops. These kids aren’t super busy with sports or outside school hour jobs, they just seem to experiencing some form of burn out. Some of the absolutes used in the readings worry me as I cannot see every student, teacher, library or librarian fitting easily into some of the parameters set. Q

  4. Bev said:

    Thanks for making reference to my post Why can’t kids search? 10 tips to develop better search skills.

    I’m so glad that my thoughts here have been able to feed into your thinking and that you and your readers may be able to gain some hope that Teacher Librarians in the Primary years are as valuable and important as they are in the Secondary years.

    Tech savvy or not, our students need to learn how to use technology. Teacher Librarians have a unique set of skills. What I think we need to do as a collective group is to make sure that we re-package our skills and ensure that we sell both our skills and our wares to our school community. Investing time in ‘library promotions’ is essential.


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