Participatory Learning in a Library Program

If participatory learning is manifested most profoundly in the maker movement, then school libraries are in the box seat. Teacher-librarians can “hack the curriculum” and provide varied opportunities for school community to design, create and share in the Library spaces and the rest of the school.

Opportunities to engage in the design thinking process, including trialling, prototyping and failing are still far and few between in schools. A makerspace can provide a safe place for self directed designing, creating and learning.

I am about to begin this journey of starting a makerspace movement in the school where I work in the role of the teacher-librarian and a thought leader. It’s time to become a “maker-teacher”: I don’t know how to code, program or make electrical circuits, but I do know who to ask to work with me, how to facilitate students to work together and how to connect with others and find out what to do. I am crafty, but need to practice making more technical creations.

The next step on with a school makerspace will be to show students how to share and make their creations public. To develop the students into true contributing digital citizens the teaching community may need to redefine our approach to digital literacy. A lot more conversations need to be had about how to change the environment on the web responsively and creatively. Blogs, wikis and other web 2.0 tools need to be named participatory media not ‘new media’ (they have been around for years now). Proven successes like to YOUmedia and Dream Yard projects look very exciting: they provide great opportunities for student-centred learning.

Digital badges are an interesting concept and remind me a bit of the MOOC concept where it can be open to everyone to engage, learn and succeed. It could be a great way of connecting people to expertise. I think it will take a while to shift attitudes to the type of assessments we provide.


A New Culture of Learning in a World of Constant Change

Over the last two to three  the pace of change in digital environments has been astonishing, exciting and a little bit frightful. It is

What I am seeing in my own educational work environment is an organisation trying to catch up with what young people are doing outside of school hours. Most teachers are trying to maintain a stable infrastructure that they are comfortable within a technological world that is constantly creating and responding to the changing ways that people are using digital platforms (particularly Social Media).

There are now finally conversations now in my workplace about loosening the reigns and following the young people’s lead in how they learn form each other. For example using mainstream social media instead of our own LMS and allowing students to use multiple devices (not just their school-issued laptops).

I observe daily at work forty or more students communicating in groups online whilst they play computer games. I hear them giving tips, organising network groups and sharing ideas. I have set up working spaces in the Library which naturally lead to students set up informal tutorials when they meet up in the morning before a test. These two observations remind me of the two case studies; ‘Sam’s Story’ and ‘Teaching in a Galaxy Far, Far Away’ in Thomas and Brown’s (2011) article.

What I am not seeing yet is all teachers collaborating and connecting online. I want to see teachers publishing, sharing ideas and resources, being creative, bouncing ideas off each other; connecting and taking advantage of the knowledge networks out there to be created. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to job-share at least eight different times over my teaching career and have always appreciated having a like-minded work partner to discuss ideas with.


Thomas D., & Brown, J.S. (2011). Arc-of-Life learning. In a new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (pp. 17-33). Lexington, Ky. : CreateSpace