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.

What Matters Now

Seth Godin writes about marketing, the spread of ideas and managing both customers and employees with respect. If you’re not familiar with his books, check them out here.

Seth’s newest ebook What Matters Now is a compilation (or is it a collaboration) of ideas and actions happening around the world.

Seth explains:

We want to shake things up. More than seventy extraordinary authors and thinkers contributed to this ebook. It’s designed to make you sit up and think, to change your new year’s resolutions, to foster some difficult conversations with your team.

Over 70 authors pitched in, and it’s now free to download here, or on Scribd.  Some great ideas to grab for education too!

Did you know that last year 1.2 million books were loaned out in developing countries through Room to Read?

Take one of the pages, and use it as a discussion starter with your students, or your next faculty meeting.

Innovations keep rolling out ~ Google Living Stories

Living Stories provide a new, experimental way to consume news, developed by a partnership between Google, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. In Living Stories, you can read the same reporting and analysis that you expect from the Times and the Post, delivered on a highly interactive platform.

more about “Google Living Stories“, posted with vodpod

A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?

On Friday the 7th August I was proud to participate in the annual UQL Cyberschool Seminar in Brisbane, Queensland: A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?   How lovely to escape cold weather, and to meet new faces in the Teacher Librarian profession. It was the 10th anniversay of the Cyberschool – a service to all schools in Queensland, and to other States in Australia, providing a wealth of information resources and online databases.

The Program of the day included Tanya Ziebell, UQ Library, Patricia Carmichael, a fabulously energetic TL from Concordia Lutheran College, Dan Walker, an inspirational Principal from Brisbane State High School, Dr Mandy Lupton, Lecturer in Teacher-Librarianship, QUT, Lea Giles-Peters, OLD State Librarian, Keith Webster, Director of Learning Services, Professor Phil Long, Centre for Educational Innovation, and of course – myself!

What a fabulous group of people to listen to before my turn came. It was great to have Phil Long talk in detail about the Horizon Project and together with Keith Webster, engage the audience with some interactive online trials using iTouch units on loan from Apple. Keith showed us his masterful way of presenting using CoolIris – loads of fun!

Here are the slides for my presentation. As always, the story is in the telling!  I hope I encouraged some people to think ‘out of the box’, be connected, be comfortable with social networking, and hopefully find ways suitable to their own context to transform school library learning services.

Learning and design in your library

Following on from my last post, I was really lucky to do my presentation after Kevin Hennah, and help put library design into the context of the digital changes that are impacting on 21st century learning. We did try to Ustream the event, but it wasn’t one of our successful efforts :-)

However, I know that the all the wonderful people that were there for the day were all putting an enormous amount of energy, care and thought into planning their renovations, extensions, or new school library buildings. Here’s the presentation slides – I know that some people are looking for some of the hyperlinks.  Thanks to everyone in Cairns, and for making me feel so welcomed so far up north.

[thanks to Kim Cofino for some of her inspirational images. Kevin Hennah is going to drop in and visit Kim in a few weeks. Fab.]