February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

A Match Well Made: The standards’ emphasis on information aligns with librarians’ skills | On Common Core

I grew up on the ’60’s outside New York, where there were racial riots and free love. The Beatles boomed from boxes and people sang about clouds, vanity, and love. Today we are largely beyond racial riots, love is cheap, and music still booms in ear pieces playing tunes of confusion, vanity, and love. Transformation has occurred, but there are timeless elements. Information is one—valuable and priceless, but packaged differently today than it was 25, 50, or 100 years ago.

Librarians recognized the value of information more than 20 years ago when our profession launched the first edition of Information Power as a national library best-seller. It did not make the New York Times’slist, but almost every library in America owned a copy. We recognized the need to move away from media and skills (the wave of the ’60’s and ’70’s) to empowering lifelong learning through information. If the world had only listened then, we could have all been spared No Child Left Behind and the messy race we are now in to the top of nowhere. Despite society’s evolution and pop culture’s transformation, information is still powerful.

It is information that empowers learners to make good decisions. Information empowers us to argue, debate, create, communicate, critique, analyze, support a position, comprehend a topic, formulate a point of view, converse, and more. All these verbs were pulled from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The crafters of the Common Core knew the timeless value of information. That is why you will find the word “information” 243 times in the CCSS for ELA alone.

If you search the ELA Common Core Standards for “technology,” you will find it mentioned only 24 times. Yep: “information” is mentioned ten times more than ”technology.” Technology often gets the spotlight, but it is information that is important. Teachers may not get it, but CCSS architect, David Coleman, got it. He recognized that we live in an Information Age in which technology holds no power without the correct information. Data and information empower technology. Information is at the core of technology, learning, debating, analyzing, developing a point of view, and other Common Core tasks. We knew this 20 years ago. Information Power had the student at the center of learning. It was all about empowering the student to be a lifelong learner. Now, we need to just graduate “college and career ready” (CCR) seniors.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Common Core. I just believe that librarians were light-years ahead. Dig out your old copy of Information Power, blow off the dust, and read the preface. You might be shocked to discover lines that read as though they were from the Common Core. “Broaden access to and use of information by students, teachers, and parents” using information for lifelong learning. The 1998 edition opens by talking about the “explosion of information” and “promoting authentic learning.” The first chapter of Information Power reminds me of the Common Core Anchor Standards. They were so much alike that I went into Appendix A and searched for a citation—nada.

The library world didn’t stop with Information Power. Our professionals went on to concentrate on the “learning” via information when we focused on inquiry and authentic learning. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) spearheaded new standards for the 21st-century learner. The power word that appears there is “conclude” or conclusion. We need to triage instruction to foster higher-level thought; encourage critical thinking skills; empower students to use information correctly, live uprightly, make good decisions, and ethically contribute to society. Information empowers technology, and technology delivers information. This is a match made for us. This is the new recipe for successful instruction. Do we dare say we are 20 years ahead—again?

Paige JaegerPaige Jaeger (pjaeger@WSWHEBOCES.org) is coordinator for school library services, Washington Saratoga Warren Hamilton Essex BOCES, Saratoga Springs, NY. To submit an On Common Core opinion piece, please contact Rebecca T. Miller at rmiller@mediasourceinc.com.

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