Digital Information Ecology
In the video The global one room schoolhouse, John Seely Brown said that in the past we got answers from books but now we can get answers from networks. This is not an earth shattering statement to me because I have witnessed and been part of this shift towards a new digital information ecology over the past 18 years in schools. In 2013 I heard Tony Richards speak at a conference and he asked us to look at our learning nodes growing up and today. See the image below. This exercise made me realise that students today are learning a great deal outside of school and usually with technology. School libraries are well placed to provide a bridge between old and new approaches to learning.
Learning nodes. Photograph by Karen Malbon
School libraries have always provided students with opportunities to explore their own interests, learn and play with books, board games, puzzles and craft. New tools in the network age now enable students to play and tinker with computers, mobile technologies, social media and online communication.
In an address at Innovation and Technology in Education
, John Seely Brown said “play is a place of permission and a space of invention, where we can try things out and have permission to fail.” I believe this place should also extend to teachers. Over the years I have come across teachers and teacher librarians who felt left behind, anxious and unsure about technological advances. If willing, schools and the school library can provide the two elements that are essential to a new culture of learning as described by Thomas and Brown (2011) “The first is a massive information network that provides almost unlimited access and resources to learn about anything. The second is a bounded and structured environment that allows for unlimited agency to build and experiment with things within those boundaries”
Teachers are increasingly expected to be adept at a variety of technology-based and other approached to content delivery, learner support, and assessment; to collaborate with other teachers both inside and outside their schools; to routinely use digital strategies in their work with students; to act as guides and mentors to promote student-centred learning; and to organise their own work and comply with administrative documentation and reporting requirements.
Teachers no longer hold all of the power for student learning. Students can obtain information from a variety of sources, using a variety of devices. “The role of teacher becomes less a conduit and director, and more a facilitator and guide, enabling the initiative to be taken, productively, by the student” (Haste, 2009, p. 216) John Seely Brown
takes this a step further saying that not only can teachers be mentors but students can too. Reverse mentoring could see a student acting as a mentor to their teacher, parent or grandparent for example. Some may find reverse mentoring unsettling but I think it would help to foster valuable relationships with students.
The school library has an important leadership role to play in supporting the learning of teachers and students as they explore different forms of technology and the constantly changing tools available in our digital information ecology.
Brown, J. S. [DMLResearchHub]. (2012). The global one room schoolhouse [Video file]. Retrived from https://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM
C-Span. (2013). Innovation and technology in education, panel 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.c-span.org/video/?312978-1/us-education-strategy-digital-world
Haste, H. (2009). What is ‘competence’ and how should education incorporate new technology’s tools to generate ‘competent civic agents’. The Curriculum Journal, 20(3), 207-223. doi: 10.1080/09585170903195845
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). Arc-of-life learning. In A new culture of change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.