As the economy and society becomes more information-intensive, it is imperative that today’s students develop strong research skills that will enable college and career success. Increasingly, educators, employers, and policymakers see the effective use of digital content within instruction as a cornerstone for the development of these research skills. Despite the enhanced use of digital resources within many K-12 schools, a gap still exists between classroom and library usage. To explore how to close this gap, Project Tomorrow® collaborated with Cengage Learning to examine the use of traditionally library-based digital content within classroom instruction. The resulting study during the 2014-15 school year specifically focused on how the Gale Resources databases from Cengage Learning supported student research projects at two independent high schools in the greater Philadelphia area.
The focus on students’ research skill development and the strong relationship between the library and the classroom environments provided an optimum setting to explore the relationship between the use of the Gale Resources and students’ learning experiences at these two schools. Quantitative and qualitative data collected from the high school students, their teachers and the school librarians addressed the following key research questions:
- How does digital content help students develop important college and career ready skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration as well as increased research skill fluency?
- What is the impact on the classroom experience when digital content is used within research projects? Are students more engaged in the learning process? Do the resources support teachers’ goals?
- What do teachers need to expand their use of digital content within instruction? How can the school librarian help teachers adopt new instructional practices and enhance learning opportunities for students?
The results from this study provide valuable new insights as K-12 leaders, in both public as well as independent schools, continue to explore how to best leverage digital resources to support student learning, especially in terms of helping students develop college and career ready skills.