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School Libraries: The Center of the Universe: Reflection on #AASL2009

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning – this title came to me – as I brainstormed ideas for this post. It must have been something I was dreaming, or perhaps just my subconscious helping me pull together several ideas that have been lurking in the back of my consciousness.

Some things have come together for me recently – and the sessions I attended  at AASL have really helped bring into focus the task I now have at hand.  You see, recently, I accepted a new position in my district. My new title is 21st Century Learning and Innovation Specialist. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Me, a school librarian! I am tasked with developing and sharing a vision, and designing and delivering a professional development program that will help all teachers to acquire not only the tech skills that they will need, but more importantly, an understanding of how to build a learning environment that will allow students room to develop and practice important 21st century skills, including creativity, team work, critical thinking & problem solving, and technology and information literacy.

At AASL, so many ideas I have had were reinforced for building a 21st century learning environment and integrating 21st century skills. Dr. David Loertscher shared with us more of his vision for the Learning Commons – both a physical and virtual space where learning can happen 24-7, and Valerie Diggs showed us what hers looks like. Christopher Harris, Brian Mayer, and Kelly Czarnecki  wowed us at their preconference with ideas for how to use gaming for increasing  not just motivation, but critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and collaboration skills. Several sessions I attended emphasized the importance of not just collaborating with the classroom teacher – but other specialists in the building, such as literacy, art, special education, and talented and gifted. Revisiting Colorado’s Learner’s Bill of Rights for my own presentation refocused me on the importance of recognizing the needs of the learner, and how careful instructional design can assure students will be engaged and successful in their pursuit of knowledge. And Leslie Maniotes demonstrated in such a crystal clear way how important it is that we connect with student experiences in the “third space” – where real learning takes place.  All of these things, I believe, are excellent strategies to help teachers move toward more constructivist learning environments.

I think my “aha!” was that none of these are new ideas.  Teacher-Librarians  have been doing this for years – with varying degrees of success, depending on many factors, but always dependant on the level of administrative support they receive.  So, of course, my number one strategy for transforming teaching and learning for the 21st century will be to facilitate true collaboration between the teacher librarian and classroom teachers.  I might even have some “pull” with those administrators now!

Could my new job be that simple? Has my job really changed all that much?  I don’t think so. You see, school libraries are really the center of the universe. They open up the doors of learning both knowledge and skills to all students .  Perhaps all school librarians should come to think of themselves as a 21st century learning and innovation specialist.

Nancy White
CASL CO-President Elect


One Response

  1. So glad you had a refueling and inspiring experience at AASL, and thanks for sharing with others!

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