Initial Thoughts

One of the most significant things I learned from my review of the literature is the fact that the multiple literacies that now define information literacy mirror almost exactly the categories of skills identified as essential for success in the 21st century (see Appendix E: Information Literacy and Essential Skills). This leads me to determine that information literacy not only encompasses all of these essential skills, but that it is a necessary component of 21st century education. If, as the literature I reviewed suggests, inquiry-based learning is an effective way to teach information literacy, and if, as the literature suggests, qualified teacher-librarians are more likely to be experts in teaching information literacy and inquiry-based learning, then it follows that teacher-librarians will be an essential component of the education system in the 21st century.

Knowing that our role is so important is reassuring. In fact, the literature review has provided me with ammunition for dealing with the wrongly held belief that the Internet will cause teacher-librarians to become obsolete. However, now the question becomes how can Manitoba teacher-librarians do the job we clearly are supposed to be doing if we have no framework in this province that governs information literacy? Also, how can we justify our necessity if no scholarly study on the impacts of teacher-librarians in schools has been conducted here in Manitoba? It is difficult to convince school boards and administrators of the importance of having a qualified teacher-librarian on staff and teachers of the importance of working with a qualified teacher-librarian if there is no explicitly mandated curriculum document or any specific provincial evidence that supports our role. All that we can do is work within the existing curriculum structure while at the same time advocate for either a revision of current curriculum or the creation of a new document for inquiry and information literacy.

In the following sections I will reflect on the implications of the literature review for our particular situation in Manitoba. I will examine the Manitoba curriculum and the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) for specific references to inquiry and information literacy as they have been defined above. Implications for the various stakeholders here in Manitoba will be noted.

The Manitoba Context

Every Manitoba curriculum document includes an explanation of the vision and beliefs about teaching that particular content area as well as a description of the important learning that is central to that subject prior to the listing of general and specific outcomes. Each of the Science curriculum, Social Studies curriculum and English Language Arts curriculum include comments about constructivist ideals and include some type of inquiry, problem solving and/or information literacy skills. For example, the Science curriculum (Manitoba Education and Training [MET], 2000) includes a cluster of specific learning outcomes known as Cluster Zero which includes the scientific processes common across all scientific genres. This cluster contains scientific inquiry, problem solving and decision making processes through an inquiry based approach. In addition, the English Language Arts curriculum (MET, 1998) dedicates a whole General Learning Outcome (GLO) to information management and also promotes the use of inquiry-based learning. Finally, the Social Studies curriculum (MECY, 2006a) includes a skills component that is essentially a list of information literacy skills and also encourages the use of inquiry for learning social studies concepts.

Our curriculum documents are either brief frameworks, or comprehensive foundation documents that include details about each outcome. These documents include examples of what the learning outcome looks like, suggestions for instruction, suggestions for assessment and suggestions for resources. However, in no curriculum document is there a specific section where suggestions for technology integration or inquiry-based learning opportunities are included. Instead inquiry, technology integration, and the information literacy skills that accompany this integration, are lumped into the suggestions for instruction.

While it is apparent that curriculum documents in Manitoba do incorporate inquiry based learning and information literacy as essential elements of the outcomes, strategies and skills students must master, none of the curriculum documents I examined mentioned the teacher-librarian or the school library program. Incredibly, when inquiry is suggested as a strategy, there is no mention of the teacher-librarian or the school library. Inquiry and information literacy instruction already exist in our curriculum frameworks, however perhaps a more explicit document would ensure inquiry and information literacy skills are being addressed more effectively. The findings of the literature review clarify that of all the personnel in the school system, the teacher-librarian is best prepared to help teachers address the inquiry and information literacy outcomes already included in our curriculum documents.

The Literacy with ICT Continuum in Manitoba Curriculum

The only curriculum document that comes close to governing the role of teacher-librarians in Manitoba schools is the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) that was created to guide technology integration in our province. The document uses many terms and phrases that teacher-librarians are familiar with, such as, “a process of inquiry across the curriculum,” (MECY, 2006b, p. 8), “inquiry model,” (p. 9 & 11), “constructivist learning,” (p. 13), “critical and creative thinking,” (p. 14), “gradual release of responsibility,” (p. 16), “digital citizenship,” (p. 17) and “multiple literacies for the 21st century,” (p. 18). The Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) is organized using an inquiry based framework and is infused with inquiry concepts and strategies. In fact, the inquiry model was one of the models used to frame the continuum (MECY, 2006b).

Although this document clearly describes information literacy in the 21st century, the term “information literacy” is not included once. Instead the document defines literacy with ICT as “choosing and using ICT, responsibly and ethically, to support critical and creative thinking about information and about communication across the curriculum,” (MECY, 2006, p. 8). Interestingly, the definition of “literacy with ICT” used by MECY is similar to the definition of “information literacy” provided by Asselin, Branch and Oberg (2003) in Achieving Information Literacy.

The Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) is a developmental continuum and thus does not include general or specific outcomes for Literacy with ICT, inquiry-based learning or information literacy. Instead it provides a continuum of behaviors that teachers can assess through observation. Unfortunately, this means there are no mandated outcomes that are clearly associated with information literacy, nor are there any suggestions for ways to integrate the continuum, or teach and assess the skills and knowledge associated with the it. Although an extensive website was created to provide further support and resources for teachers, this site does not include outcomes, nor does it mention the teacher-librarian as a resource or expert in information literacy. The rationale given for the lack of specific learning outcomes is that because the document is required to be “infused with existing concepts across the curriculum” (MECY, 2006b, p. 9) it doesn’t need its own separate curriculum. However, without specifically mandated outcomes, it becomes possible for teachers to overlook the importance of information literacy and subsequently the importance of the role of the teacher-librarian.

MECY (2007) created and published a curriculum framework for high school students titled Senior Years Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This document suggests ways to continue the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) into the high school setting. The courses Applying ICT 1 and Applying ICT 2 are specifically intended to continue the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) into the high school. This document includes outcomes and an integrated inquiry process. It is a better example of how an information literacy curriculum could look in our province.

The Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) focuses on technology integration as a means of teaching our students in the 21st century, but does not explicitly identify that technology integration must be accompanied by information literacy skills. Technology is merely a tool and students need to know how to use that tool effectively and appropriately. As a result of my examination of selected literature, I believe Literacy with ICT cannot be accomplished without information literacy. Although the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) includes an affective domain to address ethics, social responsibility, collaboration and motivation, it does not consider the more emotional aspects of the information search process, inquiry process and of using ICT as described by Kuhlthau et al. (2007).

To help implement the Literacy with ICT Continuum (MECY, 2006b) at the school level, MECY sought out “technology leaders” or those who either had an interest or demonstrated skill in technology integration. Unfortunately, the strategy of targeting “technology leaders” did not recognize the knowledge and expertise of as teacher-librarians as an asset for the implementation process. In fact, the funding for the implementation of this document went directly to the technology departments of school divisions, ensuring that teacher-librarians were not involved in any implementation efforts.