I found that working with Ms. Smith was invaluable to me as a future school librarian. Not only was I able to really see how her day was spent, but being able to pick her brain about every day activities was fantastic. Also, as an enthusiastic teacher, she gave me a lot of wonderful ideas and ways to implement information literacy into nearly any curriculum plans.
I found that while there was a huge emphasis on teaching (rather than answering more reference questions as there would be in a public library) Ms. Smith found many ways to incorporate different information skills into each lesson. Some of what she taught her students to look for were the same things we studied in class – evaluating websites, properly using references resources, and becoming familiar with databases all became major themes in the media center.
It was incredibly refreshing to see a teacher so enthusiastic about teaching and making the environment kid-friendly without being condescending to her students. It was obvious that she was truly loved by the student body and that most teachers valued her opinion and respected her ability to help them with their curriculum.
In the 8th grade schedule this year, there is an extra period that most students may take an elective like art, music, or shop class. This year, the principal approached Ms. Smith and asked if she’d like to teach an elective on information literacy. Ms. Smith not only jumped at the chance but she decided to change the name to Marketing Strategies and incorporate traditional marketing information to help hold student interest. This week, I had the opportunity to watch the class in action.
Ms. Smith divided the 20 student class into groups of 4 and had them act as marketing agencies, each promoting a different imaginary product that they brainstormed. The first marking period focused solely on print ads, techniques used to pull in audiences, and ways to get buyers to purchase the products. Students used these lessons to create their own print ads and pitch them to the class. The second marking period focuses on both television ads and web ads. Students use Flip recorders to tape and upload their own videos. They use fee online animation sites to animate their print ads for Internet-ready marketing.
While the focus seems to be on advertising, Ms. Smith makes a point of teaching the students that this is how people market products to consumers. These are also techniques that websites use to get more traffic to come to their sites which is why Google is not always the best way to search for information. She teaches media ethics, advertising versus marketing, and why it is important to be smart information consumers – people who don’t take information at face value.
She even follows this through to plagiarism. She explains that quoting anything that isn’t yours is fine so long as credit is given but even quoting a movie without properly citing it is wrong. Ms. Smith says that some students don’t know that any work needs to be given credit, not just books. She equates directors to authors and explains that their work should be given credit.
The fact that this class exists at all is quite amazing, in my opinion. It does not take place in the media center but a classroom, which gives the class some privacy and cuts down on distractions. The class meets once a day for half the school year and then she’ll get a new set of students for the second half. Both she and the principal think that adding this class is helping to strengthen the students’ ability to identify good sources and accurate information.