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AI and School Libraries - The Future

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

In today's ever-evolving digital landscape, the role of the school librarian has become more crucial than ever as the impact of AI technology on education is likely to be profound.

The move towards integrating AI into education will transform the way students learn and access information and shape the very fabric of our educational systems. Students will engage in personalised learning experiences, tailoring their educational journey to their unique needs and preferences.

The availability of online resources has expanded exponentially, providing a wealth of information at students' fingertips, and breaking down the barriers of traditional textbooks and library collections. Since Covid, the use of technology revolutionised collaboration among students and teachers, allowing for real-time communication and virtual teamwork, regardless of physical location and now the arrival of AI has caused the perfect storm.

This shift towards AI technology-enhanced education has tremendous potential for both students and teachers. It enables educators to design differentiated instruction, catering to diverse learning styles and abilities. Adaptive learning platforms and intelligent tutoring systems can harness the power of AI to provide personalised feedback and support, empowering students to reach their full potential. AI technology can also foster student engagement through interactive learning experiences, incorporating multimedia elements, gamification, and simulations to make learning more captivating and immersive. These tools enhance comprehension but also promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and improve literacy and creativity.

Challenges and Concerns

However, as we embrace these advancements, we must also acknowledge the challenges and concerns that arise. The digital divide, where students from disadvantaged backgrounds may lack access to technology and the internet, remains a significant barrier to equal educational opportunities. A school library can bridge this divide but requires a concerted effort by the school to provide equitable access to devices, connectivity, and digital resources.

Additionally, the influx of information and potential digital distractions pose challenges to maintaining focused and meaningful learning environments. Students must develop essential learning skills to critically evaluate information, discern reliable sources, and navigate the vast online landscape responsibly.

AI and School Libraries

A school librarian's role in this new shift extends beyond curating resources and providing access to information. They have a unique opportunity and responsibility to ensure that emerging technologies are used ethically in educational settings. Chartered and Certified Librarians are bound by an ethical code and this extends to AI.

School librarians can play a vital role in promoting ethical considerations surrounding AI. They must advocate for transparency, accountability, and fairness in the development and deployment of AI technologies. This involves awareness of AI algorithms, understanding their biases, and working towards helping their students use AI with caution. It is also important for them to advocate for diverse representation in AI systems, ensuring that in using AI we do not perpetuate existing biases or reinforce inequities in educational opportunities.

The new reading framework published by the UK Government has just come out. I am planning a follow-up blog which will be out soon, but it highlights the need for literacy to be improved. School librarians are at the forefront of the war on poor literacy and AI is going to be helpful in this endeavour. I have just read a newsletter from Dan Fitzpatrick and he states "The secret weapon in AI is literacy". Without literacy skills, AI can't do anything. It still needs human interaction so a school librarian's literacy skills are another opportunity to be highlighted.

Further to this lots of AI experts are talking about the need for inquiry-based learning. A skill that school librarians have in abundance. It certainly is time to start talking about what school librarians can do.

The future

As AI technologies continue to evolve, it is incumbent upon school librarians to stay informed about ethical considerations and understand how to work with AI themselves by engaging in ongoing professional development. By being proactive in learning about AI and school libraries, attending conferences, and participating in discussions, they can contribute to the ethical discussions surrounding AI implementation in education. Additionally, fostering open dialogue with students, teachers, and stakeholders allows school librarians to address any concerns or misconceptions about AI and ensure its responsible use.

The future of the school library profession lies in its ability to embrace new technologies, adapt to the changing educational landscape, and navigate the challenges and opportunities they present. By curating high-quality digital resources, promoting their role in the learning process and collaborating closely with teachers, they can ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to navigate this new AI world and thrive going forward.

Let us embrace this new AI revolution with open minds.

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Poster - The Future of the school library profession

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