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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

The Librarian:
Your Technology Partner


One of my favorite movie scenes is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A posse traps Butch and Sundance on a ledge high above a river. They realize they will need to "take the leap" if they are to avoid capture. When Sundance confesses that he can't swim, Butch gives him one end of his belt to hang on to and they jump together. (This was before it was acceptable for cowboys to hold hands.)

Having a partner in any enterprise that seems risky lessens the fear factor and improves one's chance for success. When implementing a new project that uses technology, I whole-heartedly recommend asking your librarian to be your "technology partner." You will find that today's best librarians -- or library media specialists (LMSs) -- have

A healthy attitude toward technology. The LMS considers and teaches not just how to use technology, but why and under what circumstances it should be used. (A sexist syllogism: Most librarians are women. Women have a healthier attitude toward technology than men. Therefore most librarians have a healthy attitude toward technology.) If using traditional methods or resources will work better, a LMS will say so.

Good teaching skills. Unlike technicians, LMSs are more likely to use good pedagogical techniques and communication skills since they are trained teachers. Librarians are understanding and empathetic when technologically related stress occurs in the classroom.

An understanding of the use of technology in the information literacy process and its use in fostering higher level thinking skills. Librarians view technology as just one more, extremely powerful tool that can be used by students completing well-designed information literacy projects. Many "technologists" just now are getting this - that using technology to solve problems and answer questions is more powerful than using it simply as an electronic workbook.

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Want to read more about Doug and his thoughts on library media and technology? Visit his Web site or browse his new blog. Got a compliment, a complaint, or just a comment to share? E-mail Doug at [email protected]

Experience as skill integrators and collaborators. Integration of research and information literacy projects has been a long-term goal of school library programs. As a result, many LMSs have become excellent collaborators with classroom teachers, successfully strengthening the classroom curriculum. LMSs are less interested in "integrating technology" than in improving your lessons. They know kids; they know technology; they know what works; and they know how to work with others.

Been models for the successful use of technology. The library's automated library catalogs, circulation systems, electronic reference materials, and student accessible workstations all showed up well before classroom technologies. The general use computer lab in a building is often in or adjacent to the library. That means that the LMS is often the educator with the most comfort with technology in your school.

Provided in-building support. Even a semi-flexibly scheduled LMS can work with you in the library, lab, or classroom. Unlike another classroom teacher or district technology person, the LMS is available when you need her for questions that might otherwise derail your project. Having ready support just down the hall is critical to any technology project.

A whole-school view. Next to the principal, the LMS has the most inclusive view of the school and its resources. The librarian knows what is available, where it is, and how to get more. Need a second digital camera? Hmm, the second grade classrooms aren't using theirs just now.

Concerns about the ethical use of technology. Students will need to have the skills to self-evaluate information; understand online copyright laws and intellectual property issues; and follow the rules of safety and appropriate use of resources. Who but the librarian worries about that stuff and can help you understand its complexities as well. Parents will want to know that you've been working to make sure their children are safe and ethical users of technology.

Whether you feel comfortable enough to hold hands or not, look to your library media specialist when taking your next big technology "leap."

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Updated 09/15/2008