Grand challenges or a common way of thinking?

In the old epoch...

Many schools (and organisations responsible for K-12 education) worry about moving to the cloud for their knowledge pathways and   learning interactions.  But while ‘we’ worry, have we stopped long enough and looked far enough into possibilities in order to gain a better perspective on the scope of the digital [r]evolution around us?

I see this worry as being associated with a number of things:

  • A learning agenda that is essentially about achieving a ‘competitive’ edge (exams, tests, scores)
  • A learning process that is tied to a fixed content/curriculum approach (state or district syllabus directives)
  • A learning belief system that claims constructivism while operating in an industrial model of schooling.
  • A learning approach that still has to learn about connectivism as the source of powerful learning practices.

In such a scenario school libraries wishing to be placed at the centre of innovation in 21st century learning environments are faced with a remarkable challenge. While it could be said that the whole school, or education itself, is facing a challenge, the strategic importance of school libraries in forging new places and new approaches to learning should never be underestimated.


Anytime anywhere

This is as true for the smallest central school in Australia as it is for large learning enterprises such as my own school.  I believe we still have a little time up our sleeves  simply because the majority of people – from the stake-holders to the senior administrators – do not yet understand the extraordinary opportunities before us.  But getting ourselves sorted is getting urgent.  And no, the solution isn’t just going to a laptop program. It’s much more than that.

I believe it is time to start digging deeply into the new learning culture that is emerging. I am not talking here about using Web 2.0 tools, or creating content, connections and conversations online, of playing with tech tools on laptops.  I know that we are all busy exploring these options, and many teachers are demonstrating that they CAN adopt cloud-based activities to

empower learning, and do know how to challenge their students to develop the best thinking skills possible.


Uncommonly flexible..

What I would like to see is a growing understanding of the shifting base-line of our
technology-enhanced learning environment. From there we can move to develop an adoption strategy for each school that will shape the nature of a learning commons – agile learning spaces in the real sense – i.e. a school and a school library that is both physical and virtual, and which is pervasive, real, and enmeshed in all aspects of student learning.  Some are on the way – but many are not!  Where do you fit on the spectrum?

It takes time for any enterprise or organisation to adjust to new technologies, and schools are no different in this regard, particularly when K-12 moves to the cloud.

It is easy to

point to the online professional learning networks that many educators participate in as being key to helping share ideas about how to best use these tools in their classroom.

The real-time web in the classroom is here to stay and are busy lowering the proverbial walls of the classroom, giving students access to information that far surpasses the print-bound copies of encyclopedias and periodicals that were once the standard for K-12 research projects. As technology-educator Steven Anderson argues, these technologies

really make the world smaller for our students and show them that they can find the answers they need if we equip them with the tools and resources do to so.

The next step is to create a vision, form and function for your school library that is free from edu-speak conventions (which can become quite stale) and is intuitively accessible to the wider school community. Re-engineer what your library has to offer in whatever ways are possible to you. It is easy to write about whole-scale change, but not so easy when you look at each school and each school library because of the underlying thought changes that have yet to happen.

Give it time – but put KNOWLEDGE at the centre of your thinking rather than ‘library’ and  ‘information services’.    Knowledge and knowledge creation – globally – is the ticket to the future!

Smithsonian Commons Project

It’s in the context of this thinking that I really enjoyed learning about the Smithsonian Commons project.  I haven’t had time until now to catch breath and absorb the implications of this important endeavour.

Michael Edson, Director of Web and Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy at Smithsonian Institution, talked about his project, explaining that foundational concept that everyone should have access to the raw materials of knowledge  creation – everyone, for any purpose.

The project is a significant one and speaks of an approach or philosophy that should be the motivation for our educational endeavours.  It demonstrates a new model of knowledge creation – one that is fast, transparent and open. The spirit and philosophy of this project is one in which they define success as a truly open sandbox that belongs to everybody.

The Smithsonian commons is a project that is just beginning and the goal is to stimulate innovation and creativity and learning through open access to s resources, expertise and communities. In the old epoch institutions like the Smithsonian and like universities were built on the model of enduring wisdom. “we didn’t have to change, we didn’t have to look outside ourselves to strenuously because wisdom endures, wisdom is slow”.  In this epoch I think we’ll be measuring our worth, this library will be measuring its worth, the Smithsonian will be measuring its worth in terms of how successful we make people outside our walls. It’s a very different way of thinking. It requires a great deal of institutional humility and generosity.  I’m inspired by the work of Kathy Sierra, social web thought leader who said “in the old days the pitch for business was follow me, I’m great. The big opportunity now is follow me or my product because I help make YOU great”.

Watch  TWIL #22: Michael Edson (Smithsonian Institution) from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Be inspired by the idea, and visit the related websites:

Smithsonian Commons – A place to begin -  wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype  – wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype – Live

Learning Spaces and School Libraries

This time last year I was involved in a planning day with a large number of schools and their staff, on the matter of  21st Century School Libraries Learning Learning.  There is so much to think about in the design or re-design of such facilities no matter what the budget.

Here is another presentation that piqued my interest, with relevance to school libraries.

‘Impressive new buildings are, on their own, NO GUARANTEE that improved learning will be achieved; although they may be useful in marketing terms, by helping brand an institution’.

“teaching and learning should drive design, rather than vice-versa”

Take a look as there are  some good points to take away for your own deliberations…..