White Paper: Media specialists key in effective use of broadband

By Dr. Nancy Everhart, director,
and Dr. Marcia Mardis, associate director,
The PALM Center

In a matter of days, the federal government will start handing out the first $4.5 billion from stimulus funds intended to spread high-speed Internet connections to more rural communities, underserved urban neighborhoods and other pockets of the country clamoring for better access.

School library media specialists are uniquely qualified to ensure that the upgraded technology is fully integrated into teaching and learning in schools, according to a White Paper, From District to Desktop:  Making the Most of Broadband in Florida Schools, released by the PALM Center, a research center devoted to the study of school libraries located at the School of Library and Information Studies in FSU’s College of Communication & Information. 

“In their roles as school leaders, school library media specialists provide tech coordination, support, and leadership necessary to address access issues from desktop to district. As one of the only faculty members who work across curriculum areas and grade levels, the school library media specialist has unique knowledge of classroom activities throughout the schools and places in which technology would enhance learning. Moreover, it is the school library media specialist who often provides desktop-level technology support and liaises with district-level technology staff to identify the needs of teachers and students,” said Dr. Marcia Mardis, associate director of the PALM Center.

The U.S Department of Education reports that 98 percent of U.S. schools are connected to the Internet but the speed and capacity of the connection is often problematic and insufficient.  In Florida, bandwith needs have been increasing 22-30 percent annually as digital technology has increasingly become a vital part of teaching and learning. From District to Desktop explores the current status and future broadband needs of students, teachers, administrators and parents in Florida, relating them to national research, state reports, and local examples and is being made public on the PALM Center website  www.palmcenter.fsu.edu.

 The White Paper’s title, From District to Desktop, refers to school library media specialist on-site support that can streamline and enable effective use of broadband-enabled technology. For most schools, they can expertly direct this “last mile” implementation, the report notes. 

“School library media specialists also use the principles of Standards for the 21st Century Learner, the new guidelines of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), to facilitate high levels of student achievement,” added Dr. Nancy Everhart, PALM director and president-elect of AASL.  “Students see the school library as a digitally enriched place where information can be located and used, projects can be designed and created, and knowledge can be expressed within and beyond school walls.” 

Florida’s schools face challenges to the integration of broadband in teaching and learning in the areas of access, skills, policy, and motivation. While it is possible for a school to be connectivity-rich but integration-poor; conversely a school can experience the thwarting effect of inadequate connectivity on instructional innovation. School library media specialists have a vital role to play in helping broadband and school technology work together to maximize teaching and learning for all of Florida’s citizens.

About the PALM Center:  The PALM Center conducts nationally and internationally recognized interdisciplinary research on library media specialist leadership and technology integration and offers an array of services to support school library media specialists and other educators in Florida, throughout the United States, and internationally to improve their districts and schools. A wide range of research and evaluation services is available from large-scale surveys and evaluation of reliability and validity of program implementation, to individualized in-depth case studies of school libraries, technology implementation, and whole school change. For more information, contact Dr. Everhart at 850-644-8122 or Dr. Mardis at 850-644-3392.