The creation library

“Are you a creation library or a collection library?” asked Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, in his keynote address at this year’s Internet Librarian conference. Immediately that question repeated in the echo chamber of Twitter feeds and timelines, mine included. This was the question of the conference. In the discussions of iPads, the pedagogy of play, transliteracy, and all things Google, this question distilled for me the essential idea in constructing a future for libraries.

Not long ago a student asked me if I was worried that my job was being taken over by the Internet and it was difficult not to make a reference to the movie Desk Set. Had I heard Lee Rainie speak before being asked I might have had a better response than a wry “no.” Libraries, and perhaps especially school libraries, have a great opportunity at this moment to move from the model of dispensary of information to the creation of the new. While research has always been in service of something else—writing a paper, doing a presentation, resolving an argument, the shifting sands of technology invite us to use the resources of the library to better understand and use technology.

Now that every UHS student carries the internet with them at all times on their iPads, my new task is how to get them to use the iPad to best understand, create with, and remix the world they are connected to.  These changes are not happening in a vacuum, if you are reading this blog then you are probably experiencing similar changes in your school or library. I will do my best to document this transition from collection to creation throughout this iPad year.

UHS iPad Symposium 2011

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On Friday, October 28, students and faculty converged at UHS for our first annual iPad Symposium. The theme? “The Olympics,” a nod to University’s much-beloved spring field day event. For the symposium, students were broken down into countries, with senior captains at the helm. Working with a variety of different apps to research their respective countries, each team put together a carefully constructed (and often hilarious) audiovisual presentation using ReplayNote.
Finally, students, faculty, and three faculty judges came together at the end of the day to choose the nation that would win the iPad Olympics—and therefore have the honor of hosting the UHS Olympics in the spring. After a closely contested vote, South Africa was declared the winner—congratulations!!

Technological Breakthroughs

Embrace the Backchannel

TodaysMeet is a web-based backchannel that helps connect a class in real time by allowing students to make comments, ask questions and provide feedback. This can be done when a teacher is giving a presentation, a documentary is being watched or utilized as a forum for breakout discussions. TodaysMeet doesn’t require anyone to signup. You can simply name your virtual room, how long you want the virtual room to stay active for and a URL (web address) is created.

Disruptive Change Coming to Education

I recently read about Eastman Kodak’s rumored bankruptcy: “The year hasn’t been kind to Kodak, which has suffered massively from photography’s transition from film to digital….” I can’t say I’ll be very surprised if they do declare bankruptcy: their industry was severely disrupted by the introduction of digital photography, and despite their previously dominant position and early work in digital, they have not been able to adapt successfully—corporate Darwinism, I suppose.

Their troubles remind me that my industry (secondary education) has entered its own period of massive disruption with the introduction of online learning. Just as digital cameras were clearly inferior when they were first introduced, online learning is clearly inferior to in-classroom learning… so far.

However, just as digital photography first made in-roads on the fringes, so has online learning. The Flex Academies, offered by K12.com, would probably not appeal to many families who send their children to independent prep schools which sit at the top of the secondary ed pyramid. However, I believe the Flex Academy concept, which provides an adult-supervised, safe place to stay while parents are at work, combined with a self-paced online curriculum, will appeal to many families for whom independent education is out of reach.

K12.com initially offered online curriculum for home-schooling, so we see that the concept of online education is already moving up the pyramid, and is currently at the second or third level. As online technologies improve, become more interactive and engaging, and as K12 and other online curriculum providers experiment, learn, and solve the problems with their approaches, this climb up the pyramid will continue.

How long before it reaches the top? For my own sake, and for the sake of my colleagues at UHS and other independent schools, I hope a good, long time—but we would be wise to anticipate this disruption before it reaches us, and to recognize it for both the threat that it represents, as well as an opportunity. I’ll write more about online learning as opportunity in a future blog post.

Learning in a Digital Age

“Education,” scholar and writer Ralph Ellison once said, “is a matter of building bridges.” And perhaps, no bridge more important than the bridge to the future. As educators, it is our responsibility to prepare students for the world of tomorrow. Yet tomorrow isn’t what it used to be. 

This is the beginning of an article I wrote for PBS’s MediaShift website on the importance of teaching a new kind of literacy in our emerging digital age. If you’re interested in reading more click on the red word article above (which is a hyperlink to the article).

Classroom Salon

Classroom Salon is a web-based social networking application that allows groups to explore texts deeply. By aggregating annotations and comments Classroom Salon provides student-centered collaboration.  Through working in teams students are able to enhance their perspectives on a given text through community feedback and interpretation.  The upshot is that students are able to improve their critical and creative analysis in ways that could not be achieved by working alone.