Monday, July 23, 2007

Paradigm Shift

From David Warlick's "Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century." (Really, this should be required reading for every single student teacher/librarian.)

We educators have lost control over the information. Children control it now. They need to learn to control their information in positive, productive, and personally meaningful ways--and this is the what we need to be teaching them.

Too many educators don't get this. They complain about plagiariasm, cut-and-paste internet use, poor work ethics. They fail to recognize the problem isn't the student: the problem is the spit-it-back assignment that allows this to happen. Instead, teachers need to create real research questions that put students in control of content and process and product--with guidance, of course.


  1. I couldn't agree more, Jeri, many teachers don't get it. What worked for my school was holding a dedicated Professional Day to discuss plagiarism issues and come up with a school-wide plan. Naturally most of the strategies that work have to do with solid information literacy skills. As a result we have seen an astounding decrease in the number of plagiarism incidents. For the past 2 years, my focus as a teacher-librarian has been on keywords and pathfinders. At one time I used to warn staff that their kids would go madly off in all directions on their first day's visit to the library with a new assignment. Since I have begun meeting with each class, discussing keywords and sources, and providing students with pathfinders or directing them to compile their own the students have become much more task oriented and focussed from the beginning. I had the privilege of working with a district team that compiled a print resource called Web in the Classroom which guides teachers to focus on Internet safety, essential search skills, creating critical thinking assignments and effective information gathering strategies. When we took the time to focus on these skills students responded in a very positive way and the quality of their learning experiences improved. It's a real kick to hear students advising each other to use caution in Wikipedia or directing each other to quality online databases.

  2. These are great ideas, and I like the idea of a PD on plagiarism--especially if it can focus on prevention rather than punitive damages!

    I'm interested in seeing the Web in the Classroom document you worked on. Is it online at all? What a great resource for your staff. We talk about how kids aren't that good at using the web critically, but I don't think faculty are, either. We need to move them along in a non-accusatory, non-threatening way. That would be one good way to start.

  3. One comment that really stayed with me from our plagiarism workshop was from a teacher who said, "We're not in the business of failing students." Amen!
    You are so right about teachers not using the web critically. I have been doing workshops with other staffs and am amazed at how little some of them know. They are keen to learn which is gratifying.
    The Web in the Classroom resource has been picked up by the B.C. provincial government and is available from

    Or if you want an older copy I can mail you one gratis when I get back to school in September. The newer versions come with a CD. If you are interested please contact me through to TeacherLibrarianNing.
    Lesley Edwards

  4. Thanks for this post. I'm especially intrigued by the conversation about critical use of Internet-based information. The problem is that we, most teachers, were educated in a world where you could trust most of the information you encountered. We assumed its authority. That influenced how we were taught and how we teach today.

    We live in an entirely different information landscape today, one that is far more democratic and participatory, less based on authority and much more based on creativity and contribution. This doesn't simply mean that we have to teach new skills. It means that we have to teach differently. We must not teach from authority any more. We have to teach based on questions and the value of answers.

    Thanks again!

    David Warlick