Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mind the Gap!

One of the challenges I face is channeling the quickly changing world of information and media technology into collaborative planning with teachers. Often times they seem overwhelmed with choice and the changes in assessment and management that come with incorporating many of the new tools and skills into their content goals. I get it. But how do I address this? How do I more effectively address their concerns and support their goals without stressing them out?

An example is NoodleTools, the powerful citation and note taking platform. Instead of passing out style sheets teachers, with my assistance, have to teach students how to create accounts, share them with the teacher, and go through the process of evaluating a resource and generating a citation. Then they must learn how to use the (brilliant!) note card feature take notes on their resource. After that there is the outline where they build the structure of their paper. This takes a different type of planning and time allocation, but the benefit is the teacher and I have access to student work and can monitor progress and intervene when necessary. This is about the teacher substituting "content time" with some "skills time".  Ultimately students complete the final paper more successfully. The first time is a real leap of faith, and not all are ready to hold my hand and jump.

Dr. George Loewenstein wrote a paper called The Information Gap in 1994 that neatly frames this dilemma, and it sure isn't isolated to school libraries. Luckily there is a neat 3 minute video interpretation put out by a blog called mondaydot that explains the theory and puts it in context with neat little animations.

So, back to my dilemma. I need to focus my collaborative efforts and teacher-directed professional development role on the size of the information gap. If the gap is too small it means I am not moving my students or staff forward. If I push new tools, skills and platforms too aggressively the gap becomes too large and fear sets in, causing them to draw back. Again, they will not move forward.

By keeping track of the tools, skills and platforms that I introduce and support, hopefully  the information gap will fall in that comfortable middle range. The goal is for students and teachers to continue to move productively, and happily, forward.

Stephen's Lighthouse: Mind the (Information) Gap

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