At EduTECH 2014 I had the opportunity to present the opening address, on behalf of the Australian School Library Association, at the K-12 Library Manager Congress. Here are some of my reflections from the first day.
Our past is just as important as our future. It helps to inspire and guide.
Sugata Mitra opened the conference and made reference to his ‘hole in the wall’ experiment to inform his ‘schools in the cloud’ project, which commenced this year. We need to tap into the curiosity of the learner and their sense of wonder and passion for learning.
My opening address for the K-12 Library Managers Congress, Curriculum Connections: The School Library in Full Flight, also reflected on the past of the Great Library of Alexandria and its defining characteristics. The characteristics of collection, organisation, maintenance and patron group have stood the test of time and form the foundations for modern school libraries.
Throughout the day there were connections back to the four defining characteristics, for example, the importance of metadata for organization and access to information, the emphasis on digital literacy and skills for the future and meeting patrons’ needs, and places and spaces designed for collaborative and self organized learning environments (SOLE).
Anne Weaver shared her journey for designing contemporary library spaces Potter Library Renovation
Judy O’Connell helped us see that connectivity is the new black and if we don’t have access to a robust wifi we lack the infrastructure to effectively deliver on collaborative learning and the environments to support self organized learning. As delegates experienced their own wifi challenges during the conference it helped to put into perspective discussions about BYOD compared with BYOT.
This reinforced Mitra’s focus on the place of broadband + collaborative environment + encouragement & admiration to provide opportunities for young people to learn together and be supported throughout that learning process.
Many speakers focused on the importance of questions answering problems, especially when supported by encouragement and admiration. Mitra referred to the ‘granny brigade’ involved in his projects and how students are encouraged to try again to see if they get the same answer. Sir Ken Robinson demonstrated how students can draw a different and more creative picture when responding to more open questions compared to providing the ‘right’ answer.
Robinson spoke about providing the tools for students to engage in learning that will extend their mind and expand their reach, but to also be very mindful of the impact these tools will have on their ability to effectively communicate and engage socially. Delegates were challenged to rethink 1:1 laptop/mobile device programs and to consider ways to foster collaboration. A panel of educators shared their practical experience with the tools they use to engage students in collaborative practice and being creative in the cloud.
At the same time we need to make sure students have the skills for the future to do this safely and responsibly. I reminded delegates of these findings –
“Today’s teens are part of an increasingly global and competitive society. Success in that environment requires an expanded set of skills that goes beyond traditional academic skills and includes learning and innovation skills (i.e. creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration), and information media, and technology skills (i.e. information literacy, media literacy, digital literacy, and ICT literacy.) ….. In the last three decades, the skills required for young adults to succeed in the workforce have changed drastically, but the skills emphasized in schools have not kept up with these changes. This has led to a widespread concern that young adults lack the necessary skills for job success and are entering the workforce unprepared” (Braun et al. 2014, p3).
Jenny Luca shared her reflections and practical applications in her keynote on
Digital Literacy: guiding students (and teachers) to develop their 21st century skills.
“Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills” (OITP, January 2013, p. 2).
Judy O’Connell reminded us of the importance to focus on the skills our young people need to be successful and to survive in her keynote address on the impact of Web 3.0. She drew our attention to the Assessment & Teaching of 21st Century Skills
- Ways of thinking. Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
- Ways of working. Communication and collaboration
- Tools for working. Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
- Skills for living in the world. Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility
With this attention to Web 3.0, I thought I would try and find a definition. I located the following in BuzzWord – “A third phase in the evolution of the World Wide Web, based on the idea that the Internet ‘understands’ the pieces of information it stores and is able to make logical connections between them”.
“….the ‘read-write-execute’ Web, a version of the Web in which users can create and execute their own tolls and software to manipulate and extract information, rather than using other people’s software and websites. However, though this may indeed be one aspect of Web 3.0, use of the term seems at present to focus on the concept of enhancing the ‘intelligence’ of the underlying architecture of the Internet – the idea that information will be organised and identified in a way that makes searches more effective because the platform ‘understands’ and makes connections between pieces of data.”
Since 2011 there has been a continuing focus on cloud computing and the challenges this places on K-12 schools. A critical challenge that emerges is the need for digital media literacy as a key skill for all, teachers and students. In addition, there is a strong demand for professional development to help teachers to integrate the technology into the culture of the school.
Constant pressure is placed on teachers to incorporate the technologies. Sir Ken Robinson reminded us that 10 years ago there was no Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Diigo, etc. Teachers are provided with the technology for their classroom and curriculum but are left without the tools and skills to effectively integrate new capabilities into their teacher methods. A teacher librarian was represented on the panel of educators and very ably presented how her role in the school was to support staff in professional learning in this area. Initially this started as a voluntary activity for staff and quickly became a mandatory event. Teacher need to know how to use the tools, like DuckDuckGo, FlickrCC, Google Advanced Search, Diigo, Scoop.it to support an inquiry learning approach, as evident in the Australian Curriculum and general capabilities.
So, on that first day it was evident that school library professionals rock.
There was a showcase of these folk on day one and their work in spaces for learning, services and tools for learning combined with practical and an authentic approach to learning. The education babble was there on the day, but it was the school library professionals who provided the practical application and the take-away insights.
Braun, LW, Hartman, ML, Hughes-Hassell, S & Kumasi, K 2014, The future of library services for and with teens: a call to action, YALSA, USA, viewed 3 June 2014, http://www.ala.org/yaforum/future-library-services-and-teens-project-report
Office for Information Technology Policy’s (OITP) Digital Literacy Task Force 2013, Digital literacy, libraries, and public policy, OITP, USA, viewed 2 June 2014,