“Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not a preparation for life but is life itself.” John Dewey (1859 – 1952)
Joyce Valenza’s collaboratively-created Manifesto for 21st century Teacher-librarians provides not only direction, but inspiration and hope for teacher-librarians to continue to be integral to the life and learning in a school. It makes me wonder, what are the paradigm shifts that allow 21st century literacies and web 2.0 learning flourish, and more importantly, how does this connect with my own philosophy of education.
I’ve always tried to be well grounded in my learning theory and able to explain why I teach the way I teach. I make known my fierce belief in social constructivism by adding the above quote to the bottom of my signature on my school e-mails.
Social constructivists believe that learning is intensely social and collaborative and constructed by students based on their unique understanding of their worlds. We must meet our students where they are – which is squarely in the 21st century including social networking, gaming and a lot of other highly social, high level thinking and interactive technological activities.
Having grown up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s I understand clearly that as Marshall McLuhan states “The Medium is the Message”. Educators need to make sure they understand the different media available at any given point in time, and how each media may or may not be the most effective in conveying their student’s unique messages.
Contemporary transformative learning theorist Stephanie Pace Marshall states in her book: The Power to Transform: Leadership that Brings Learning and Schooling to Life :
To educate our children wisely requires that we create generative learning communities, by design. Such learning communities have their roots in meaning, not memory; engagement, not transmission; inquiry, not compliance; exploration, not acquisition; personalization, not uniformity; interdependence, not individualist; collaboration, not competition; and trust, not fear.
The learning community Marshall describes is the one in which I want to live and learn and teach.
And as a Teacher-librarian I am in the privileged position to help lead. As Dr. Ross J. Todd explains in Youth and their Virtual Networked Worlds: Research Findings and Implications for School Libraries (p.31), Teacher-librarians have a “golden opportunity” to demonstrate leadership by illustrating how engaging and powerful the new collaborative technologies are.
I need to make sure I’m a Teacher-librarian that:
- has the information to pass on when asked “what is the best software or tool to use to get my message out and how do I get started?”
- understands the new tools and their potential pitfalls so I know how to guide students to take advantage of them wisely.
- early adoptors, innovative and risk-taking teachers in the school come for support.
- teaches students how to locate and organize information most effectively, including how to use RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites
- teaches critical and media literacy.
- demonstrates how powerful and positively collaborative a school/classroom/library blog or wiki can be.
- can find a specific CBC interview podcast at the principal’s request and post it on the school blog for all staff and students to access easily.
- invites discussion for creating a shared school vision for integrating technology in a meaningful way.
- teachers come to discuss how to incorporate e-books and audio-books into regular instruction using student and school Mp3 players.
- advocates for least restrictive filtering practices so students can take advantage of the new technologies in meaningful ways, while also learning responsible and ethical use of the internet.
- help students know the value their own positive digital footprint.
- responds to student’s requests to access the internet on their own laptops in the library by calling for a policy review on this issue instead of citing existing policy.
Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for the 21st century Teacher-librarian continues to evolve as a wiki, which I believe is the absolute most appropriate medium for this message. As I examine the last few lines as they appear today I am inspired to reflect whether I:
- see the big picture and let others see [me] seeing it. It’s about learning and teaching. It’s about engagement. If [I am] seen only as the one who closes up for inventory, as the book chaser, and NOT as the CIO, the inventor, the creative force, [I] won’t be seen as a big picture person?
- continue to retool and learn?
- represent our brand as a 21st century information professional?
I’m filled with hope that students of today are moving humanity toward a better, social and more thoughtful future. If I can continue to help guide this in a good way, then I can rest assured that I’ve done my life’s work as a teacher and a mentor.
The Lost Generation: If you start viewing this video, watch it all the way to the surprise ending.