New Resource from Gale Enables Smarter Collaboration with Teachers

In the last 25 years the school library has undergone a dizzying transformation. Once a hushed and austere sanctuary, it’s now a hub of collaboration, innovation and creativity.



In the last 25 years the school library has undergone a dizzying transformation. Once a hushed and austere sanctuary, it’s now a hub of collaboration, innovation and creativity. Of course, the guardians of this experience are still librarians. Working alongside other educators as well as department heads and administrators, the librarian’s goals have not changed: to impact student achievement and to help shape the future.

In an ideal learning environment, librarians would be regularly curating high-quality resources from their library’s collections to help teachers design engaging and thought-provoking lesson plans.

But today this kind of rich collaboration is limited to “projects” or “research.” Teachers and librarians are often too busy; there’s so much competition for student’s attention; there are limits on resources; there are struggles for funding. For many municipalities the Internet is the new librarian. “What we’ve found is that librarians are struggling to demonstrate their value to a fast evolving school landscape that shifts toward being more digital with every year,” said Lemma Shomali, director of K12 products for Gale, a Cengage company. “It’s only natural that they focus their efforts on effectively collaborating with teachers and administrators to help build curriculum.”

This fall, Gale is introducing a resource that will help. Gale In Context: For Educators is an online platform that allows teachers and librarians to work smarter, not harder, as they collaborate to help students succeed. “For the teacher it removes the complications of figuring out their access code, and the challenges of determining what materials they have, how to search for them and share with students,” said Liz Collins, manager of K12 products for Gale, a Cengage company. “It eliminates the runaround and provides a more streamlined path from library to educator to student.”
 


 

The product is new to Gale In Context, the company’s most popular middle and high school databases, which include nine subject-specific products with essential content for students ranging from informational text, primary sources, video, audio, and more.

In addition to searching across their subscribed Gale In Context databases, For Educators allows users to find classroom resources by browsing up-to-date national and state curriculum content standards; locate instructional content, lesson plans, activities, and project plans by discipline and course.

By leveraging all the databases that the school has access to — either through the school, district, or state — the product is designed for teachers to use daily so that they can build engaging curriculum over time.

The key enabler to building curriculum is the product’s collaborative aspect. Librarians can create a personal profile to save a variety of collections, and with a few clicks those resources will appear in the For Educators accounts of multiple colleagues.

Librarians can also help teachers assemble resources for a specific class assignment or project, or complement work they’ve done with additional materials.

For example, a teacher may use For Educators to deliver engaging instruction by creating interactive documents with inserted prompts or critical thinking questions. Librarians can help build those into sets the teacher can assign to students as reading lists or lesson menus. Single documents or entire collections can be shared with students using Google Classroom, Drive, or LMS.

Librarians can collaborate not only with teachers within their building, but also with other librarians and teachers within their district. And this collaboration is not just one-way — a teacher can help the librarian too. “We know how teachers and librarians operate,” said Shomali. “They work on projects together when they have time, between classes, between sessions, they work at night and pick back up on it in the morning. With this product they can actually create folders to start curating and organizing their resources and content. And then they can share those with each other to have additional collaboration.”

Over time, as teachers use the database more in the classroom they will build up their portfolio of digital materials, which will increase student engagement. “And that engagement will manifest itself in student achievement,” said Shomali.

At that point all parties are aligned. “Everyone in education is working toward a single goal: to improve student achievement and prepare students for their future,” said Shomali.

Yet librarians struggle to advocate for themselves and their department, to connect with the administrative leadership to communicate their value, to interject themselves in conversations with decision-makers — these were insights gleaned from Gale’s Be a Change Agent: Best Practices for School Library Advocacy campaign in 2018.

Shomali says that library advocacy efforts need to continue. “It’s been a challenge for librarians to be seen as an essential partner in education,” she said. “And this product really empowers them to do that.”

“There is so much pressure to deliver more with less,” said Shomali. “Librarians are problem solvers and they need to showcase how they help educators effect student outcomes. They need to elaborate on that, to describe how that happens.”

Getting on the ‘technology boat’ is the best way to do that. “For Educators really allows librarians the opportunity to be an integral part and to collaborate with teachers and support the curriculum,” said Collins.

How can librarians demonstrate their usefulness in real terms? Through data — specifically through usage. “With educator involvement, you'll see more usage within the student databases,” said Collins. “Plus, librarians can further demonstrate impact by showing how they supported the curriculum, or a particular project, from concept to execution to outcome. They could say, ‘I created this lesson to support this class and this is what the students did and learned.’”

 

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