Announced in July, the American Association of School Libraries (AASL)’s new mission statement said it clearly: AASL empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning. The trends we see this year emphasize significant opportunities and the critical importance of transformative library leadership as we rethink our platforms, collection, space, and new opportunities for instruction. Leadership from the center is not new—but perhaps it is a new essential in a transitional time.
At her Connected Librarian session on October 7, Judy O’Connell (@heyjudeonline), course director for the School of Information Studies at Australia’s Charles Sturt University, reminded us that 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the Web. “The book did not take its own form until 50 years after it was invented,” O’Connell said, evoking a Gutenberg parenthesis. We, too, are smack in the middle of a paradigm shift. Leadership during this particular parenthesis, or transitional digital stage, is essential.
I asked a number of friends to help describe what the parenthesis, and its opportunities, look like on the ground.
Social media is the new media. Social tools enable learning, connecting, creating, and relationships. It is our landscape, and it’s thorny, but it’s here—and we need to leverage it and teach in it. Our students deserve agency and the ability to engage and share their voices. If social media is blocked in your district or school, get it unblocked. This is an urgent equity and intellectual freedom issue. Lead the teaching in leveraging social media to model authentic ways to communicate, collaborate, and build community, and let our children participate.
Transparency is the new platform for student work and reading. Platforms like Google Classroom and Subtext (which facilitates ebook discussions) allow us to enter students’ work formatively, to intervene in the writing and research processes, to observe products and growth. We should take advantage of opportunities to guide, comment, analyze, and reflect on student work. Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan (CT) High School, believes that Google Hangouts and Google Classroom increase co-teaching opportunities. “We model the use of new tools and increase our time with students without taking away from their teachers’ instructional time.”
Global is the new literacy (the new author visit, field trip, and text). Educational leader Heidi Hayes Jacobs describes global literacy as the ability to be a fluent investigator of the world, examine different perspectives, report on and share ideas, and act on those ideas.
Connection/conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Skype make it easier than ever to engage and contribute, well beyond our ZIP codes, with little or no cost. We’ve already recognized our capability to spend time with authors, experts, and other classrooms and libraries. Activities like Mystery Skypes and International Dot Day are just the beginning. This year, a group of teacher librarians launched the GlobalTL: Librarians Without Borders Google+ Community, as well as #globaltl, to demonstrate the role librarians might play in making meaningful curricular connections.
Crowdsourcing/crowdfunding is the new bake/book sale for advocacy and making stuff happen. Judi Moreillon, assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University, notes that “school librarians can benefit from pooling testimonials from their advocates to increase their influence on larger, and perhaps untapped audiences.” A powerful example was this year’s viral video “What Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.” Our community also rose up and worked with developer Mike Lee on his Kickstarter campaign to ensure that the worthy curation platform edshelf did not vaporize. In addition to Donorschoose.org, librarians have embraced CrowdfundEDU, AdoptAClassroom, and IncitED.
1:1/mobile is the new computer lab. Carolyn Foote, SLJ Project Advocacy columnist and librarian at Westlake High School in Austin, TX, believes that 1:1 will evolve librarians’ roles. More embedded librarianship may lead to new staffing needs when librarians are out in classrooms. Carolyn’s own 1:1 campus will gradually morph one of her library computer labs into a multifunctional planning/creating lab. We may all rethink library spaces previously allotted as labs.
Demonstrating the movement toward a device-agnostic ecosystem is an exciting new array of Web tools redesigned as robust apps, including Glogster, Wordle, and InstaGrok.
App smashing/app curation is the new collection building. Our preservice training didn’t anticipate the urgent need to help teachers and students gather collections of high-quality, useful apps into learning dashboards. Librarians must curate for mobile, as well as desktop devices, and scout out the best emerging tools. These new collections will allow students and teachers to easily find needed apps and sites and creatively blend or smash them.
Online communities of practice are the new faculty rooms/professional development. You really have to try hard to feel alone. Our TLChat community (#tlchat) continues to thrive. Connected Librarian Day was but one example of the power and availability of free and freely available professional learning. Each year, exciting new voices join the ranks of our colleagues who graciously reflect and share their discoveries and their practice through their slide decks, videos, blogs, and tweets—all high-quality, informal learning opportunities.
Making is the new learning. Learning by doing, and challenge-based, project-based, and self-directed learning, define the maker movement. This year, many libraries made room for making. “My fifth grade meets in the Media Center before school, like mad scientists, to dissect the cast-off technologies others would label as trash,” says Lynn Gagnon, district librarian at the Keystone (OH) Local School District. ”They want to know how a computer works, and what they can make from the pieces.” Foote says, “[Even] if we can’t make room for makerspaces, we’ll create makerspace events to allow students the time/place to tinker, create, and play.”
“Makerspaces in schools should connect to student’s authentic interests,” adds MIT Media Lab project manager Amos Blanton.
Augmented reality (AR) is the new reality. AR is a technology that enhances the user’s real-time view with a computer-generated perspective. “We are starting to see AR take hold in the education field, with examples like the DAQRI Anatomy 4D app, and the Zooburst and Chromeville apps,” says Elissa Malespina, coordinating supervisor of educational technology at the Parsippany-Troy Hills (NJ) School District. A growing number of publishers embed AR into books. Malespina believes that new programs for the education community, like Blippar, may be game changers, because they allow teachers and students to build free AR elements that last indefinitely.
Lifewide is the new lifelong learning (well, we like them both). In her Connected Librarian talk, O’Connell mentioned the term “lifewide” as a central paradigm for future learning. Wikipedia describes this approach as “a teaching strategy that involves real contexts and authentic settings. The goal is to address different kinds of learning not covered in a traditional classroom” and to better equip students “to attain whole personal development and…lifelong learning skills.”
Though we should care deeply about what we traditionally call “achievement,” learning in our spaces should not be restricted to the outcomes of high stakes assessment. Self-directed “genius” time can be the new study hall. We are the very spaces where it is safe for learners to connect with their unmeasured, and perhaps unmeasurable, interests and talents—and where it is safe to celebrate the freedom to geek out.