I have a piece in this month’s American Libraries magazine on instructional literacy, or strategies and approaches that working library educators can use to build instructional design and delivery skills as they teach:
Build Your Own Instructional Literacy
Face it: Teaching is hard. It’s hard from any angle, using any technology, to any learner. Even for those enviable (and few) “natural teachers,” being an educator is as at least as challenging as it is rewarding. Not only does teaching take skills, preparation, and diligence; it demands bravery, humor, and self-awareness.
Now more than ever, librarianship has an instructional slant: From school library media specialists to academic librarians, we increasingly embed ourselves in curricula and classrooms, lead workshops and training, and create digital learning materials as a matter of course. Moreover, the librarian-as-teacher is beginning to enter the popular zeitgeist: Marilyn Johnson’s widely publicized This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All (Harper, 2010) portrays today’s librarians as connected and techdactic, and a library-supported Digital Literacy Corps was among the provisions of the National Broadband Plan recently proposed by the FCC. These developments help bring the educational work we have been doing for decades—helping individuals navigate and thrive in the information society—into the limelight.
There is some irony in the timing of this development: a national debate about teacher training and effectiveness is raging, yet most of the country’s go-to digital literacy educators—e.g., librarians—were not systematically trained to teach in the first place. Sparked by the transition from Bush’s No Child Left Behind to Obama’s Race to the Top, the impact of instructor skills on student performance is an area of growing contention among scholars, instructors, and policy wonks. The economic crisis and resulting cutbacks, closures, and layoffs directly impact the digital-literacy load of all K–12, academic, and public libraries, making the education we do all the more critical as our users struggle to sharpen their skills in the face of higher stakes…