LOVE & Education
Love Matters! Well, I just lost some readers already! It is amazing to me how the word “love” seems to be considered such an unprofessional word. Yet without it, everything we do is so empty and void. Rarely do we hear about “love” in professional development or in the latest movement to leave no child behind. However, we do hear many professionals say in conversation that they “love” their job or “love” what they do. We know that love is the best motive for any action. Consider how wonderful it is when someone is doing something kind, thoughtful, or generous and they actually want to do it. When someone loves what he or she is doing the first consideration is not money or reward or status, the action itself is its own reward. Somehow when something that we love to do starts feeling like a job, or a “have-to”, it begins to lose some of the passion that we might have had at first. We excuse this away with talk of commitment and responsibility, which are very important, but they do not excuse away the loss of passion or our love for others in our actions.
Imagine for a moment that you meet the person with whom you want to spend your whole life. You don’t enter into that relationship because you have to. You enter into to the relationship because you want to. There is an excitement of what the future holds. You have faith in each other, believing that the other is a gift. Your hopes for the future are bright. You ask the question “will you…” and the answer is “yes.” You start building your lives together and then reality hits. Bills must be paid and mouths must be fed. Daily chores must be done. Sometimes you think the other is not doing his/her part. You get past it and keep on keeping on. Along the way of all the have-tos, the want-tos can get buried or worse completely forgotten. If only during the process of doing the entire have-tos, the couple remembers how it all started, with a real honest “want-to.”
The connection between a love relationship and learning is obvious. Kids have a real sense of curiosity, of wanting to understand. They ask “why” of parents and teachers until we teach them to stop doing that! The passions that the youngest child walks in the door with on the first day of school are breathtaking. They want to explore all kinds of things and ideas. These things and ideas my not be a part of the standards that they have to learn. The teacher often starts out with a real desire and love for children, wanting each of his/her students to “love” school. The teacher can be impacted by an avalanche of have-to items. He/she may not be able to see what the value of some of these items are for the child, but has to do them anyway. Along the way, both student and teacher can lose their love for learning and replace passion with obligation and expectations in their educational environment. This is the opposite of Passion-Based Learning.
Revelations from the Business World
Advancing the word “love” in education is challenging, I found that many exhorted me to “stop that!” All of the suggestions seemed to take on the same theme, “Why not use the word “passion” or any other word, just don’t use love.” I had wished there was a respected author that I could reference that would support my assertion. Then I was introduced to national business consultant and best seller author Steve Farber. He had published a book called “The Radical LEAP” that used the word “love” as the basis for what he calls “Extreme Leadership.” Steve identified that love is the basis for companies to accomplish amazing things. The word LEAP in the title identifies four areas:
L = Love, E = Energy, A = Audacious, and P = Proof.
“Love is the ultimate motivation of the Extreme Leader: love of something or someone; love of a cause; love of a principle; love of the people you work with and the customers you serve; love of the future you and yours can create together; love of the business you conduct together everyday. Think about it! Without the calling and commitment of your heart, there’s no good reason for you to take a stand, to take a risk, to do what it takes to change your world for the better.” (page 163 from the Radical LEAP.)
Steve’s message to the business community about “love” has struck a deeply rooted chord. Businesses are realizing, especially during difficult times, that they need to operate on a solid foundation that will stand the trials of time. The book has been identified as “The 100 Best Business Books of All Time.”
It is not surprising that Steve had an unexpected consequence of his business book, K12 schools across the country started reaching out to Steve to support the same foundation for public and private education.
It is not that our current educational paradigm is void of Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof, it is that the order is reversed. District start with Proof as a launch point, and might get to love later. Imagine if the priority was reversed?
Consider the required paradigm with the desired paradigm:
Proof - Start with the data, and look for success or the lack of it.
Audacity - Once areas of action are identified, then action is required often with extrinsic motivations.
Energy- It is observed that staff lack motivation and enthusiasm. Fatigue is observed over time.
Love- Oh, if you have time, it would be nice if you liked your job. “In fact, you should just be happy to have a job.”
Love- Start with the love for the students and significance of the work.
Energy- Once significance and love for the work is kindled, energy naturally emerges from intrinsically.
Audacity- It is observed that staff are willing to take risks, be creative, and refuse to except the failure of any student.
Proof- The staff that started with love as the foundation for their work will provide proof through their results.
Faith and Hope
So many in-services, so many trainings, so many new ideas as to how to best serve kids and promote learning. Many of the trainings have good concepts that can really help the cause of education. Some of the ones that I have been exposed to over the last decade plus are: Professional Learning Communities, Data Driven Decision Making, Formative and Summative testing, the power of writing to the standards, essential standards, professional learning cycles, benchmark testing, pacing guides, web 2.0 tools, multimedia, interactive boards, ipods, ipads, learning management systems, cloud computing, data director, online grade reporting, responders, teacher laptops, students laptops, courageous conversations, best practices, and the list goes on…
But in all of the training I have received as a teacher never have I heard one in-service on the most important quality of a successful teacher. There are two incredible ingredients that matter most, and they are passion based, loved based; they are faith and hope.
One of the greatest gifts a teacher can give to a student is a relentless belief in the student’s ability, character, and value. When one has faith in someone, it does not mean that they know that the student possesses these qualities, but one has a belief that the student does, and will not give up on that faith even if evidence to the contrary is presented. Teachers and administration often speak of having high expectations, but high expectations placed on the student must be accompanied by high confidence coming from the teacher. It is the stuff that says to the student, “I believe in you, and I am not going to give up on you.” There are times when the student will lose faith in themselves, and will look to the teacher for confirmation that it is time to give up on him/herself. This is where faith works it best magic. When the student sees that the teacher is not shaken, then faith begins to rise again in the student, and dynamic things can happen.
The other gift is one of hope. If faith is believing in who you are today, then hope is the expectation that tomorrow, the future is bright for the student. Hope is always related to something that the student does not have today, but there is a confidence by the teacher that it will be there tomorrow. Again there may be things that will happen that may indicate that the future is not bright, and the student will be looking for that mirror. All too often, I have heard: “he is just like the parents; this one is destined for a life of crime.” This kind of statement is made all the time out of frustration in the teachers lounge, but is the worst kind of statement. It does more damage because the attitude of it will be seen by the child no matter how well hidden. Keeping the hope alive is based on the teacher’s ability to look into that child’s future and see light instead of darkness, to see success and not failure, to see hope and not hopelessness.
When a teacher uses both faith and hope together, the child and the teacher are the winners. I asked a group of administrators one day at a conference where I was speaking to take time to think about someone who believed in them when no one else did. I asked them to remember this person’s name and then share the story with an elbow partner. And before I turned them loose to do this, I added one slightly off color comment, “….and if you can’t think of anyone who did have faith in you, who saw something in you when you could not see it in yourself, then there is something terribly wrong with your educational soul; please seek professional assistance.” The room exploded in energy; story after story was being shared with these leaders from other leaders about how someone believed in them. I guess one might say that if we provide the gift of faith and hope to our students, then one might say that we are showing the best kind of love, and fostering the love of learning!
Lack of Faith and Hope
Students have a sense of adventure and questioning in their educational souls. It is seen in children at the earliest of ages when they ask “why?” A child may ask why so many times that the adult may need to shut the questioning down because it goes on too long. Students have their own set of interests, which change with time. These interests for learning information may or may not be related to the curriculum that the student is required to learn. We ignore the “desired” curriculum in the student’s heart and soul. What we believe about this “desired” curriculum is of great importance. There needs to be a faith, a belief that this desired curriculum, the one that most likely is not a part of the required curriculum, is of great value. Is it possible that a student getting some 20% time like the employees of Google, may have great benefits to the other 80% required learning?
The student’s personal interest (the heart of a personal learning network) matters! The hope of all this is that as we respect the desired curriculum found inside the student that not only it will pay off with the required curriculum, but that it will lead the student to a life long love for learning because those entrusted to teach the child how to learn as well as what to learn, has made the journey a joy. Picture two curriculums: one is adult-driven, requirement driven. The other is student-driven, desire-driven. The more the Desired Curriculum is devalued -- or worse ignored -- the greater the risk that the student will devalue the learning spark within himself. The more we value the Desired Curriculum, the greater the chance that the student will make the connection between the relevance of school (and the required curriculum) and his own desires and hopes.
Cant’ Argue with the Results
I have heard it said that “you can’t argue with the results; look at the data, this teacher must be doing something right!” Well, yes, one can argue with the results. During a conversation with a teaching friend, the observation was made that the students looked tired and worn out, but by golly they got some great test scores! In fact this same group of student got great test scores the year before and the year before that! Now the time of honors high school classes was being presented to many of the students for the next year. Most of them opted out of these honors classes. Why? The common thinking was that these kids today are lazy! They don’t want to apply themselves. I wonder if this is the correct analysis. Is it possible that the students had been impacted by a non-stop diet of have-to learning, and not given a chance for want-to learning.
Google requires their employees to work 80% of the time on assigned tasks, required duties of the organization. However, Google has a concept called 20% time. This time is provided to the employee to go after their passion under the Google umbrella: to create, to explore, to walk where the staff member wants to. This concept of 20% time has paid off for Google in terms of culture and work environment, but also in terms of productivity. Did you know that Gmail came out of the 20% time at Google? What might happen if we were to provide our teachers and students with 20% time? What might happen? Oh, we can’t do that because we have so many instructional minutes that must be fulfilled. Engagement comes from buy-in from both teacher and student. Fewer minutes spent on instruction, but better quality engagement and buy-in, rather than more instructional minutes on a given subject with little or no buy-in or engagement from student and/or teacher.
Giving students the chance to explore their interests could have untold positive outcomes. It would be during this time that students would rekindle inquiry, and exploration. Students would learn the concepts of critical thinking and dialogue discussion. They would learn about information and digital literacy in the context of a subject they were truly interested, in something where there was some passion. Feeding this part of the student and the teacher can have valuable effects.
There was a principal that believed in this idea and wanted to implement it with his staff. He asked the teachers to spend one hour each week teaching anything that the teacher was passionate about, teaching no matter if it was a part of the standards or not. Of course the teachers were provided the guideline of not bringing to the surface anything that would be age inappropriate or unethical or immoral. When I heard this I was so impressed with the approach and saw the value right away. I asked the principal how it went. I was shocked to hear that his staff for the most part had rejected the idea, and shared that they did not have time for this kind of thing. There were too many have-tos to get done, and they could not give up “valuable instructional minutes to waste on something like this.” This is a staff who had lost sight of their educational soul; they had forgotten what this is all about, the passion for learning, the get-to attitude of learning, the love of learning.
Confessions of a Teacher Technologist and Information Literacy
I have always had a love for education, and learning. In my home my parents valued creativity over every other human value. Thinking differently was highly encouraged for me growing up. When I became an adult, after a brief detour in the technology industry, I became a teacher and loved it. It was natural for technology to be introduced into my classroom; you know I loved it (hummmm there is a hint) and became pretty good at it. My district had me do some mentoring for other teachers in my grade level. You know it was great fun for me, the students, and for fellow teachers who wanted to do things differently, and attempt to make the learning process less “painful.”
One day the district technology director called me;I thought that I was in trouble, as I had been so many times before. This time she had a suggestion. There was a teaching position open at a K-8 school for a Media Specialist. I had no idea what a Media Specialist was, so I asked. She explained that a media specialist gets to work out of the media center of the school and teach technology to students, teachers and parents. It sounded so good, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity. When I was interviewed, I explained what I hoped to do with the opportunity. I explained the importance of collaboration, curriculum, information, and technology integration.
The next thing I knew the job was mine. I was so happy, and on the first day kids started coming into the library media center, who had a library tech who I thought was the librarian. The kids started saying things like “Oh, so you are our new librarian?” I would look puzzled and said, “No, do I look like a librarian to you?” This kept happening all day. When my first day was over, I went directly to the principal and said to her, “All the kids keep calling me the librarian,” and I will never forget her words: “You are!” At that moment it occurred to me that I had just taken a job, and had no idea I was now a librarian. Not only did I get this “bad” news, but wait, there is more! Even though I had just finished a master’s degree program in administration, I now needed to return to school and get a credential in teacher librarianship in order to keep my job! Oh boy, what a bad day I was having.
I will never forget telling my friends what new job I had. The response was all the same: laughter, surprise, jokes, etc… No one saw the word librarian and myself as a match, and that included me! On the first day of school for round two of another education program, a more reluctant student you could not find! However, to this day I will never forget that first class, and how my understanding was impacted that day. My only understanding of a school librarian came from watching the elementary librarian clerk, who was not a teacher nor a librarian, but I did not know that. My teacher credentialing program did not explain this to me, nor did the administration program. This thing called the library was an ignored component in both of my preparation programs.
When the professor (Lesley Farmer PhD.) started to share about the teacher librarian program and how the objective of the credential is to advance information literacy, critical thinking, support the learning what the child wants to learn, equip the student with the skills and process thinking that will allow them to expand any area of learning; to ask the question of the student and the teacher, “What do you want to learn, or teach someone?” and help equip the student and support the teacher, my mouth dropped open; I was shocked! In the decade of teaching students the thing that I noticed was missing the standards driven educational context were all the things the librarian professor had just shared with the class.
As a technologist teacher my focus had been on integrating the latest technologies that would assist students to learn the key essential standards, and back up the implementation with data from the standardized test they would take. My emphasis was on the technology and how would it help get better test scores otherwise known as our current form of “education.” I mean, after all, one can’t argue with better test results, right? However, over the years of implementing the standards-based curriculum with all the accountability that comes with it, I was noticing a problem. It seemed that the critical thinking aspects, the inquiry, was slipping further and further away. This issue must have resonated with voters in the 2010 election of the California superintendent of instruction who ran on a platform of advancing critical thinking in our students. For the record, I agree with that observation, but how sad is it that in education that this is even an issue. (Citation)
This library class had opened my eyes to a group of teachers who were dedicated to supporting what students wanted to learn, providing the literacy that supports the foundation of learning and creating. Information literacy was their framework, a concept that has been in place for decades. These educators were taught to be collaborators, so that information literacy was not taught in isolation, but in concert with any content area, or any area of self-interest of the student. The “have-to” and “want-to” could be linked. The head and the heart could work in consort.
Their perspective also reminded me that love is foundational to my core values. Love can be hard work, life changing, and can impact career advancement, and that’s OK. It takes more than feeling to make love last. It’s the same with passion-based learning. Kids start with a foundation of love, wanting to learn because they love something. And when they can’t learn about what they love, they can lose both the learning and the love. That business about faith, hope and charity started with the idea that knowledge is not enough; if what you do, no matter how well it’s accomplished, isn’t done with caring beyond reason, then it’s useless. We can have it all: nuts and bolts (required) heart and soul (desired).
The original reason for standards was a sincere desire to figure out what kids need to know and do. The original hope was the standard itself: how well the student will do. The original faith was that the student could fulfill our hopeful desire. Some of us just lost our perspective, getting mired in measurement; weighing the pig more often doesn’t help it gain weight. Many a teacher has said that they feel as if they’ve lost their heart and their soul in teaching because of standards. They just lost hope because that they couldn’t see that what they wanted and expected would happen: for themselves and for their students. And they/we didn’t always share our original basis for our desire. Our desire wasn’t the students’ desire. Instead, we had unrequited love. Love, especially love not given back, love without faith and hope can be painful. So not caring can dull the pain. What are you left with? NOTHING. But the opposite: the combination of requited love, faith, hope and learning is ecstasy!
So what is the teacher librarian’s secret? They live in the now as well as the long term. Librarians start with the student’s desire. They acknowledge them: student AND desire. What does the learner, at whatever age, want and need now? The standard is the learner’s immediate success and satisfaction, not some distant and external measure. Librarians see the learning potential behind the desire, and hope for a sustained love of learning that transcends immediate desire and passion. The librarian hopes that this concrete success will help motivate the learner to continue his own path to lifelong learning, which can accommodate all types of knowledge. The standard for lifelong information literacy is, again, ultimately internally measured. Why? Because part of information literacy is metacognition: awareness about one’s own learning, and the ability to self-monitor and self-correct learning.
But, Wait, There’s Still More
While in the one of the class session, a California Educational Code was shared with the class, AB 307: “The guidelines and criteria shall include a component to educate pupils and teachers on the appropriate and ethical use of information technology in the classroom, Internet safety, the manner in which to avoid committing plagiarism, the concept, purpose, and significance of a copyright so that pupils are equipped with the skills necessary to distinguish lawful from unlawful online downloading, and the implications of illegal peer-to-peer network file sharing.” (Citation)
I raised my hand and stopped the class, saying to the professor, “This is a job description for the teacher librarian; does anybody see this?” The professor agreed and explained the reason for sharing the information was to encourage this revelation. The light went on for me that day, that this was a passion for this educator, to service the meaning and desperate need for information literacy in K12 education nationwide. However, as I started sharing the knowledge of this with my educational technology brothers and sisters, there was agreement, but lukewarm reaction. This only fueled the fire of my passion.
So here’s the deal. Here I was, thinking that my world was being limited by becoming a teacher librarian. In actuality, my world had just expanded – or maybe even exploded! It wasn’t that I was forced to limit my thinking; I hadn’t been thinking large enough before. And now maybe my new librarian colleagues weren’t thinking large enough either. With technology entering the information literacy picture, the image now gained another dimension: 3D and beyond. We were both just looking through a glass darkly. Now I could see it face to face! And I wanted to spread that word. I wanted others to see clearly – and to glory in that vision.
The Vowels of Information Literacy
Sometimes folks misunderstand what information literacy is. They might equate it with the Big 6, cataloging, and textbook management, library clerks, which is about the same thing as equating Pee Wee Herman’s bicycle with a modern high performance exotic luxury sports car!
A good introduction to Information Literacy can be found by remembering the Vowels of Information Literacy:
A = Access
E = Evaluate
I = Integrate
O = Originate
U = Use
The student will access information by applying knowledge of the organization of libraries, print materials, digital media, and other sources.
The student will evaluate and analyze information to determine appropriateness in addressing the scope of inquiry.
The student will independently pursue and integrate information to become a life long learner.
The Student will understand the value and responsibility of an originator of information.
The student will organize, synthesize, create, and communicate information.
It became clear that Information Literacy includes within its definition ALL of the digital resources, so that information literacy AEIOUs apply to digital literacy, which may be considered a subset of information literacy.
From Enforcing to Educating!
So here we are with so much to learn, and such potential to learn. But some of that knowledge can be dangerous. Traditionally, schools pre-selected the information to be learned. Teacher librarians, too, carefully selected what resources students could access in the library. But with the Internet, those boundaries were broken. Students could access information that they were not ready to handle. Furthermore, because schools act in loco parentis, they have a special responsibility to make sure that students are kept safe. Out of fear that students might get hurt in the process of accessing technology-based information, educators and adults wanted to protect children from such dangers and so passed legislation that required Internet filtering.
One result of such protective measures has been the impediment of learning. The constant firewall blocking that takes place at the district and county levels results in frustrating students and teachers, who either give up or have to go underground to get the information that they need (required) and want (desired). When did we stop believing that the best firewall and litigation prevention is by educating and equipping our students and teachers to be fully AEIOU-ed?. The best firewall is in between our ears.
AB 307, a California state law, states that must teach both teachers and students (all students at all grade levels!) the digital AEIOUs. Then comes the federal law S1492 that states we must educate all minors in the use of chat rooms, social networking, and how to be good cyber citizens (including anti-bullying). So the emphasis has shifted from protection to arming, although the protective gates are still in place for most school, so students continue to prepare by playing with fake dragons rather than using the real sword of knowledge to fight true ignorance.
The Information Literacy and Digital Literacy Connection
Published in July 2010, California’s ICT Digital Literacy Policy Statement and Action Plan, “Digital Literacy Pathways in California,” is designed to ensure that learners of all ages are digitally literate. This plan was developed by the ICT DIGITAL LITERACY LEADERSHIP COUNCIL, established under the provision of the California governor’s executive order S-06-09, which mandated digital literacy for all state residents.
Concurrently and largely unrelated to the above work, the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted state of California Model School Library Standards for K12 students that define learning outcomes for each grade level are illustrated in the right column above.
Prior to the adoption of the Model School Library Standards, California had no explicit set of learning outcomes in digital and information literacy for each grade level other than specific technological skills under career and technical education, which is not a core content area. However, with the September 2010 approval of the Model School Library Standards, California schools now have a clear model for guidance to answer the question, what should our kids know and when should they know it? What is amazing about the alignment of the two documents is that each were created by completely separate processes and participants.
Imagine a set of standards that ask the question of both student and teacher, what is the student area of interest, desired curriculum, and does the students have evidence of a personal learning network to support that passion or interest. Wow, asking the student what they want to learn and support the critical thinking process behind that action. Now that is an example of passion based learning and encouraging the desired curriculum.
The Emphasis Shift from Educational Technology to Information Resilience
The need in California to address the Digital Literacy education problem for all of her citizens found profound expression for K12 students and teacher in the California Model School Library Standards. The use of the word “library” in the title made it difficult to communicate the content and connection to digital literacy. As one can see in the above table, item for item of digital literacy is found in the California Model School Library standards providing a road map of learning outcomes for all students in the areas of: Information Literacy, Digital Literacy, Cyber Citizenship, Internet Safety, Privacy, and Ethical Literacy. Some are describing this as “transliteracies.”
There is a growing recognition from groups outside of K12 education that the need for students to be prepared to be Information Literate (remember the AEIOUs?) Students are finding themselves unprepared for university level work and thinking as a result. Higher Education is observing that students are technology literate (able to use various forms of digital resources) but information illiterate (equipped with the transliteracies required to responsibly manage the volume of information used for integration and creation purposes.
One example of this is a resolution letter written by the Library Association of the University of California to the California State Board of Education in support of these California Model School Library standards:
Whereas, students in California higher education institutions are expected prior to admission to be prepared to conduct information research and think critically by having had instruction at the secondary school level in identifying, locating, evaluating and using information effectively and ethically; and,
Whereas, students are overwhelmed with information of all sorts and need guidance in learning how to become "information literate" so that they can identify, locate, evaluate and use information effectively and ethically; and,
Whereas, a 2001 research study, "Information Competence at UCLA," revealed "that there are many gaps in [undergraduate] students' understanding of resources and [information researching] methods." (Caravello, Patti S., Borah, Eloisa Gomez, Herschman, Judith, & Mitchell, Eleanor. (2001). Information Competence at UCLA: Report of a Survey Project. UC Los Angeles: UCLA Library. Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4v06j4z5 )
Whereas, Faculty Focus group sessions conducted at UCLA in 2005 revealed faculty concern regarding their students' information researching skills: "Most notably [sic] were students' lack of understanding regarding issues surrounding plagiarism and intellectual property; the inability of students to critically evaluate the quality of the material they have found; and students’ lack of understanding of what constitutes the scholarly process (how that differs in different disciplines, how to not only gather information, but analyze it, synthesize what is found and come up with their own interpretation of the material.)" (Kaplowitz, Joan. (2005). Faculty Focus Groups: UCLA Information Literacy Initiative. UC Los Angeles: UCLA Library. Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/83d6v8fg );
The LAUC Resolution goes on with many more example and ends their letter with:
Be it finally resolved that the Librarians Association of the University of California affirms the great value of school librarians and up‐to‐date, professionally managed school libraries for the preparation of California students for information researching in higher education institutions, and for informed participation in a democratic society, by forwarding a copy of this resolution to the California Secretary of Education, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the California State Board of Education.
Recently I was addressing a group of superintendents in California about the topic of digital literacy and how we can advance passion based learning with all kinds of technology, including hand held mobile devices. One of the school leaders raised his hand and shared that mobile and smart phones are a big problem at his high schools, each day many are confiscated because of inappropriate use. He was not happy about the idea of student having these devices, but do to a law passed in California was hard pressed to shut it down. I asked the principle a simple question: “How much time do you spend educating students on the AEIOUs of mobile device use when the students were in Kindergarten through Eighth grade and modeling their dynamic use in the pursuit of both the required and desire curriculum? “ He said, “none.”
Our kids come into Kindergarten and First grade using technologies that many of the teachers may never have used. Learning Leaders may do their best to stay up with the latest technology, and yet it may or may not be the brand of technology that the kids are interested in using. However, what is very hopeful for educators is no matter what technology the student and/or teacher uses, the student still need to be equipped with the information wisdom, literacy, and resilience that will carry him/her into the ever changing future. The technology will continue to change, but the need for wisdom, the AEIOUs of information will remain and grow in importance.
Diversity and Divergence
The Current Educational Version of the Opening to Star Trek:
Space: the final. This is the testing of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year assessment: to explore limited and known worlds, to seek out new technology to study the same civilizations, to uniformly go where everyone else has gone before.
The 20th century taught K12 education that we needed to be free of prejudice and racism; we need to accept and embrace diversity. We had laws that required change. It did not come easy, and we still have work to do in this area, but we have made progress. Although it is true we did not finish our 20th century homework assignment, we now are confronted with a new challenge on top of the old one: divergence. We need to accept and embrace divergent thinking: new patterns of ideas that can challenge old ways of thought.
Many students of the digital age do not fully understand the issue of racism or prejudice as the pre-digital age folks do. They do not have to wrestle so much with overcoming stereotypical ways of thinking. Generally, when this digital generation gather online, it is not around dogma about race, nationality, religion, etc.; it is around interest and areas of personal passion. This creates groups of people online who, for the most part, think a certain way with others who think that way as well: for example, engineering folk connecting with other engineering folks, teacher folks connecting with teacher folks, etc. These are areas of personal and professional internalized conviction.
However, this new generation, as well as older ones, needs to experience the discomfort of different ways of thinking, and broaden their perspectives to delight in that discomfort and even challenge themselves to imagine heretofore undiscovered ways of thought. The need will continue to develop that different kind of thinking will need to enter our passion groups for us to keep perspective and a fresh mind / outlook. Such mindsets have always existed, although usually not well accepted. But they now need to become the norm in order to cope and thrive in an ever-changing world. As with “dangerous” knowledge, students need to cope and learn to handle different ways of thought, which not only makes them stronger thinkers but also more creative ones.
There has been a tip of the hat to this thought in the national common core standards. It was identified in the common core that our subject areas should not take place in isolation, but relate across content areas to provide a robust perspective and thinking of the part of the student. However, it is difficult for content area teachers to play the role of content connector. Content area teachers by the nature of their work are experts in their vertical area. What is interesting about teacher librarians and the California Model School Library Standards is, together, they advance the idea of a horizontal teacher, one who is skilled and equipped to connect the divergent content areas.
The Original Version of the Opening to Star Trek
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before (citation).
The library provides an open-ended learning environment that not only allows but encourages students to build on past minds to create new futures. The library is that cross-curricular starting point to lifelong learning. It has collected the greatest minds and hearts of civilization, and enables students to cross time and space to connect with those ideas. Technology expands that intellectual universe, and provides access to some pretty scary mental places. The library is no longer confined to four walls. And just as the teacher librarian has helped students learn how to navigate, process, connect, and generate information across traditional formats, so too are teacher librarians uniquely positioned to help students get their intellectual footing so they can explore new universes of ideas. Indeed, librarians and serve as vanguards to foster not only lifelong learning but also lifelong creation.
Are we breaking our students?
“Are we breaking our students?” is the name of an article that appeared in the Orange County Register February 2011. The article referred to a study conducted of incoming Univeristy of California Los Angeles Freshmen. Consider this quote:
“...the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA released data from its fall 2010 survey showing that the emotional health of America's college freshman hit a 25-year low. Students, the survey found, feel increasingly overwhelmed.
And that's before entering college.”
Students need more than to be loaded with data, they need to be equipped and encouraged to seek out a direction that is personal and meaningful!
Today’s students have the potential to not only seek new civilizations but to create them. This is their enterprise. Such adventures start with passion and desire, and require deep and broad learning. They must be sustained with hope in a future for themselves and for others, and a faith that they up to the challenge of tomorrow. All of us need the hope that we can guide today’s youth with all the learning and teaching that we can muster. In love, we send our students into a future that we cannot imagine – But their imaginations, desires, passions, and love will create. Like I said, love matters!
"CTAP Region 7 on California K-12 High Speed Network." California K-12 High Speed Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2010. <http://www.k12hsn.org/resources/showcase/gallery/application.php/ctap7/>.
Farber, Steve. The radical leap: a personal lesson in extreme leadership. Chicago: Dearborn Trade Pub., 2004. Print.
Grassian PhD., Esther. LAUC Resolution: Support California School Libraries and Librarians. Los Angeles, CA: Library Association of the University of California, 2010. Print.
"Information and Communications Technologies ICT Digital Literacy." Information and Communications Technologies ICT Digital Literacy. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2010. <http://www.ictliteracy.info>.
"Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction | Radio Ad - California Teachers Association." Home - California Teachers Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2010. <http://www.cta.org/About-CTA/News-Room/Media-Center/Video/2010/tom-torlakson-public-instruction.aspx>.
CABRERA , YVETTE . "Are We Breaking our Students?."Article. Orange County Register, 2 Feb. 2011. Web. 3 Feb. 2011. <www.ocregister.com/articles/morrison-286784-students-says.html>.