So…been a bit of a long day in front of the computer but did want to get something down for this week’s post. This is in response to something I only half discovered–I say half because I need to do some more digging–as a result of the landscape scan critique assignment.
My original idea was to look at how distance ed high school students were supported by their school board, in terms of library resources. First of all, I never really knew how many courses were available online for high school kids. I guess I never really thought about it–don’t get a lot of distance ed kids at the elementary level! This came about because a few months ago, I noticed a neighbouring school board had this awesome Library Learning Commons site. Now, I do have some issues with the whole “Learning Commons” concept–depending on how it’s executed. For example, if it entails getting rid of all the books (like a another board did last year), then I take issue…but this other board’s website seemed to offer an excellent portal for kids to access. It had some really great research tools (on the research process, reading for information, assessing the usefulness of sources, etc.) So, I thought it would be perfect for kids who were taking classes online. Adding fuel to my fire to that was the fact that in this month Ontario College of Teachers magazine, there was an article of an exemplary teacher who taught online courses for the Halton School Board. (You can check it out here: “Meet a Teacher Whose Online Classroom is Helping Students Succeed at their Own Pace“.) Anyway, I started exploring this Learning Commons site and I realized that while it did have some good stuff available, it certainly wasn’t robust enough to support the wide range of subject areas the courses cover. So then I ended up digging through the various high school’s library webpages. By the way, when kids register for a distance course they have to register through their local school; this way the government funds it because it’s equal to one FTE student in a class. So what I noticed was that amount of information provided on each school library’s website was up to the discretion of the school/teacher-librarian: some schools had wacks of links and resources, blogs, student generated content, and some only had the hours the library was open and a link to GoodReads or Shelfari…not really equitable access is it? And how does a kid–because remember, it’s only high school: he could be grade 9 for goodness sake!–know that he’s missing some good stuff? That his school library website is not offering the same things that the other school down the road is…the chance that a 14 year old is going to assess the usefulness of his (or her, of course) school library website compared to another and go shopping around to find the one with the best resources? Hmmm, I’d say slim to none…And what about all the home-school kids…?
So then I started thinking well, it’s no wonder that when kids get into post-secondary that so many of them struggle with research and library skills. And don’t even get me started on the support the system has for elementary librarians…in my board, you need to have about 650 kids to warrant a full time librarian. There’s only one elementary school that has a population that large. That means the rest of the schools are usually around half at best (given the fact that there are a lot of k-6 schools with small populations). So the chances of them getting ahead of the game early, are again, slim to none.
It was all kind of disheartening really…I really don’t know what the kids do unless the teacher puts all the material and links together in a course pack of sorts thereby bypassing the library completely. And while that may be easier for the kids–certainly, it would be more convenient–it doesn’t do anything to promote the services and resources the library can offer. And that’s all we need: to be irrelevant.