Education Week - November 9, 2016 - 25
As Media Landscape Changes,
Librarians Take on New Roles
Digital-literacy instruction key to evolving job portfolio
> By Madeline Will
new canaan, conn.
Christopher Capozziello for Education Week
he school librarians entered the civics
classroom with authority, calling the
students by name, cracking jokes, and
quickly pulling up their presentation.
The students, mostly seniors at New
Canaan High School here, got out their laptops and
connected to the presentation with Nearpod, an interactive-lesson platform. The focus of the day's class
was learning to tell the difference between news reporting and opinion online, with coverage of NFL
quarterback Colin Kaepernick's controversial protests
during the national anthem serving as the hook.
It used to be easy: Newspapers clearly marked pages
as "opinion" or "news." But these days, teenagers tend
to get their news on Facebook or aggregation sites, and
a clear label might not be on the story. To distinguish
between different types of analyses, students have to
be able to discern biases on their own.
That was the point of the day's lesson, led by New
Canaan High librarians Michelle Luhtala and Jacquelyn Whiting and civics teacher Kristine Goldhawk.
The students' task: Distinguish the differences among
news articles, op-eds, editorials, and blogs.
The three educators circled the room, pointing out
red-flag words or phrases, like "accused," or rhetorical questions.
As the lesson progressed, the students seemed to be
picking up the concept of bias, but there was still some
ambiguity. "I don't even know what an op-ed is," one
student muttered to her classmate.
After class, Whiting smiled, reflecting on the lesson. "We're the last generation of people to know that
means opposite the editorial page," she said. "When
newspapers may not exist anymore, no one is going to
know that is a classification of content preceded by a
classification of location in the paper."
As she spoke in the school's spacious, bustling library,
teenagers were scattered all around her, but few were
looking at the stacks of print books. Most were tinkering at the library's makerspace, scrolling on one of the
library's computers, or working on homework in groups,
with many using their smartphones, tablets, or laptops.
Welcome to the 21st century school library. Gone are
the days when librarians spent most of their time monitoring the stacks and checking out books to students.
Now, Whiting and Luhtala see their role as school
librarians as teaching students how to navigate and
consume information online-and helping teachers
embed those skills into their curriculum. To do that,
they take on any number of job descriptions: They're
instructional partners, innovation leaders, and digital-literacy scholars.
"We have a really great collaborative, trusting relationship in this building," said Luhtala, the library
department chair "I can be walking down the hallway
and see an opportunity to touch base with [a teacher]
and know that it's going to be OK to do that. There's a
real symbiosis in our teaching."
Before the lesson on news reporting versus opining, Luhtala and Whiting sat down with Goldhawk to
go over the objective and the tools they would use to
convey the instruction. Goldhawk, who said the les-
School librarian Michelle Luhtala
co-teaches a lesson on news
analysis to 11th and 12th grade
students at New Canaan High
School in Connecticut. She
and fellow librarian Jacqueline
Whiting frequently partner with
classroom teachers at the school
to teach media-literacy skills.
The Changing Face of Literacy / www.edweek.org/go/changing-literacy