Leading the Learning Revolution

Last Friday I ventured down south to Melbourne to join a vibrant and amazing conference on Global e-Literacy: Learning the Re-invention of Learning put on by SLAV – The School Library Association of Victoria.

Great venue, great people, great program! These great Victorian innovators gave me a wonderful welcome, and allowed me the honour of kickstarting the day with a presentation on Leading the Learning Revolution.

The MCG Members Dining Room was a great place for a smaller sized group of a 100-200. No footballers or cricket players, but the size of the venue, and reminder of the many victories and losses at that ground was just the right kind of razzle for discussing the conference topic of Global e-literacy: leading the reinvention of learning.

The day included  my globe-trotting friend Jenny Luca discussing multimodal literacies, and drawing on her vast experience of working with students and leading a school in integration of technologies. The round-table workshops were a fantastic idea – moving from one curation tool to another. I had great fun showcasing Diigo with my cheeky friend and podcast hero Tony Richards from the EdTech Crew.

Short sharp presentations on LibGuides (Di Ruffles, Melbourne High School). Apps Swap Meet (John Pearce), Curation Tools (Cameron Hocking) and Library Design (David Feighan) topped off the day. We had a wrap from Cecilie Murray, who kept us on our toes with challenges to take away for tomorrow and the future.

Fab day!  Loved catching up with old friends, and making a few new ones.

Hybrid synergy – the future of school libraries

The Resources Centre

School has been busy – and so have I. Not many blog posts – but nevertheless  I’ve been busy mulling over the future of school libraries and how they should best be integrated into the education setting that we call “schools”.

Those of us who have been in ‘schools’ for many years remember when schools had no libraries!  Now it seems that some forward thinking people prefer to return to elements of schooling that were regarded as outmoded.  Get rid of libraries? Forget the role of libraries and teacher librarians? We don’t try and go backwards in other areas of education – so what’s the deal with this myopic view?

I have been busy watching the twitter stream #iwbnet10 where three of my colleagues are listening to some of Australia’s brightest talk about schools, schooling and the digital revolution at the Seventh National Interactive Teaching and Learning Conference.

By all accounts the conference has been brim full of ideas. But what strikes me about this and other conferences, such as ISTE2010 (that I very much enjoyed in Denver earlier this year) is the decided lack of discussion of what I see as an urgent need for a ‘new’ hybrid synergy between learning and libraries.  According to Designing for the Future of Learning

the school library remains one of them most symbolic, protected, and expensive ’spaces’ on any campus. But will future designers of school libraries be recreating sacred book spaces of the past or will technology and the ‘consumer’ inspire new design strategies for the future? For many, the library is the literal information bridge to the future.

It is very discouraging indeed to have conference attendees excited by one-eyed presentations of future learning needs.  Focussing on the digital revolution and ignoring the pivotal role that a good school library can play is to achieve only a percentage of what is possible – regardless of how good it seems , it’s just not good enough!

When I focus on my role as a teacher librarian, I ask myself a few leading questions:

Should we be immersed in new media and technology in our hyperlinked library?  Definitely.

Should we be working tirelessly to identify what is needed to think in ‘future tense’ and embrace the challenge of keeping ahead?  Most certainly.

Should we be leading the  conversation about social networking and digital identities? And how!

Should we be discussing the assessment problem in these media environments?  But of course!

I have the joy (and tears) of managing a school library that is open each week day from 8 am – 10 pm.

It’s a central hub for collaboration, technology, reading and writing.  It’s a place for change and about change. But with all that, it still has a long way to go  to achieve a hybrid synergy in our school. No different from most – we are evolving and responding to change!

This is important because  in an era of fast facts and short cuts kids have to become VERY literate in multimodal forms.

There are NO short cuts to literacy, and there is no replacement for the love of reading! No amount of gaming, movie making, sport, social networking etc can replace the cognitive gains to be made by allowing our students to become deep readers and deep researchers.  Technology has so much to offer in this thirst for deep knowledge and engagement with the ebook [r]evolution! However, technology is not a replacement for reading, researching, and the value that school libraries and school librarians can bring to our multimodal digital century.

Can you read this?

So while you get excited about technology rich schools, and while you focus on immersive and multimodal technology, don’t forget to focus on reading, literacy, information fluency and deep understanding.  What we need is a hybrid synergy between teaching, learning, technology, pedagogy, and the services of a school library/information services centre of learning and innovation.

Everything is a matter of degree. We do need to redesign our learning environments to address, leverage and harness the new media technology environment of our schools. We need to start redesigning our school libraries and the work of teacher librarians for these learning environments. We need to adopt learner centred e-teaching. We need to share, co-operate and collaborate because we now have an information ecology that can be open, self-managed, fostered and conducive to knowledge flow between content and connections.

As Michael Wesch explains,

Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able

Please look for ways to create a hybrid synergy in your school or academic institution. In terms of modern information and media skills, our practice demonstrates small, uneven pockets of best practice. We have no textbook for what 21st-century school library practice looks like.

Today I found a school that has grasped the need for hybrid synergy!  Not only do they have a school library that is the centre of learning and innovation – they will have in 2011 the perfect vehicle for synergy in 21st century learning by formalising the lead structures within their school.

Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services, supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who will teach a subject, work with a faculty, as well as support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

Oh, but we can’t afford that at our school!

Maybe not – but you cannot afford to do without a library, nor can you afford not to adopt a hybrid synergy that will allow your teacher librarian to take charge of the digital revolution –  that is in danger of disenfranchising our students.

Let your students become ‘knowledge-able’ through literacy, reading and information fluency driven by teacher librarian experts embedded in your multimodal learning environments.

Technology trends and the Semantic Web

It’s the time of the year when we see the predictions for technology developments for the coming year. Michael Stephens at Tame the Web has published his Top Ten Trends and Technologies for 2009, and has made it easy for us to to get hooked on his discussion by being able to  Download a PDF of the post here.

The ten on the list are:

  1. The Ubiquity of the cloud
  2. The Changing Role of IT
  3. The Value of the Commons
  4. The promise of micro-interaction
  5. The Care & Nurturing of the Tribe
  6. The triumph of the portable device
  7. The importance of Personalization
  8. The impact of Localization
  9. The evolution of the Digital Lifestyle
  10. The shift toward Open Thinking

There are many themes running through these trends and technologies,  but you can’t go past the shift in devices, the power of the cloud, and the importance of the digital shifts that mean that the environment and information services of school libraries have a big challenge ahead of them.

Kathryn Greenhill at Librarians Matter alerts us to Top Tech Trends for ALA midwinter.

My favourites are:

  • Linked data is a new name for the Semantic Web – The Semantic Web is about creating conceptual relationships between things found on the Internet. Believe it or not, the idea is akin to the ultimate purpose of a traditional library card catalog. Have an item in hand. Give it a unique identifier. Systematically describe it. Put all the descriptions in one place and allow people to navigate the space. By following the tracings it is possible to move from one manifestation of an idea to another ultimately providing the means to the discovery, combination, and creation of new ideas. The Semantic Web is almost the exactly the same thing except the “cards” are manifested using RDF/XML on computers through the Internet.
  • Blogging is peaking – There is no doubt about it. The Blogosphere is here to stay, yet people have discovered that it is not very easy to maintain a blog for the long haul. The technology has made it easier to compose and distribute one’s ideas, much to the chagrin of newspaper publishers. On the other hand, the really hard work is coming up with meaningful things to say on a regular basis.
  • Word/tag clouds abound – It seems very fashionable to create word/tag clouds now-a-days. When you get right down to it, word/tag clouds are a whole lot like concordances — one of the first types of indexes. Each word (or tag) in a document is itemized and counted. Stop words are removed, and the results are sorted either alphabetically or numerically by count.

The Semantic Web is really struggling to emerge, but I believe it will happen.

Tim Berners-Lee had a vision for the internet, believing that the Semantic Web would be able to assist the evolution of human knowledge as a whole.

Human endeavor is caught in an eternal tension between the effectiveness of small groups acting independently and the need to mesh with the wider community. The Semantic Web, in naming every concept simply by a URI, lets anyone express new concepts that they invent with minimal effort. Its unifying logical language will enable these concepts to be progressively linked into a universal Web. This structure will open up the knowledge and workings of humankind to meaningful analysis by software agents, providing a new class of tools by which we can live, work and learn together.

Roy Tennant considered this vision, writing about the Promises of the Semantic Web, and the state of Linked Data systems, programming and data structures that need to emerge to provide the kind of Semantic Web that Tim Berners Lee envisioned.

Folksonomy and tagging are very useful, but they are not the Semantic Web – not in the way Tim Berner-Lee imagined.  All we are doing is aggregating our information (and our collective intelligence), but we are doing so idiosyncratically.  Without standards, we have erratic compilations. The onotology of our data structures are the challenge – if the data strings don’t match, then the inferences won’t hold across data sets for the meanings of the content being expressed.  There is great wisdom in the clouds, but there is no precision without accuracy!  Somehow the Semantic Web will eventually be able to utilise machine languages to snap ‘meaning’  to a grid of structured data.

Read the Future of MicroFormats and Semantic Technologies.  You can’t escape metadata, and you have to rely on markup languages.

The future of microformats is bright, by making it simple to encode your data, there is no reason not too. Tackling very common facets of the web, such as; people, places and events, microformats have helped to break the chicken and the egg issue. “Why should I mark-up my data if no one else is?” or “I’m not going to mark-up my data if there are no tools to extract it”.

Luckily the menagerie of tools is copious and being extended everyday. But I must admit I didn’t know that Firefox has the Operator toolbar which can detect and act on any information found in the page. Operator requires information on the Web to be encoded using microformats, and since this method for semantically encoding information is relatively new, not all sites are using microformats yet. However, Operator works great with any blog that uses rel-tag, and the sites Yahoo! Local, Flickr, and Upcoming.org, all of which contain millions of pieces of information expressed using microformats. As more sites begin to semantically encode data with microformats, Operator will automatically work with them as well.

Right!  School libraries?  Where are you in the discussion of these issues?  I have a lot to learn!

‘Low level’ semantic systems are easy to understand.  Today I noticed the ‘semantic’ support available in Feedly – my RSS reader.

The Reuters Open Calais service  “is a rapidly growing toolkit of capabilities that allow you to readily incorporate state-of-the-art semantic functionality within your blog, content management system, website or application”. Apparently Calais “doesn’t just make data searcheable, it makes knowledge searchable”.

more about “OpenCalais – Semantic access“, posted with vodpod
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