In a discussion after a recent presentation, an educator stood to make a counterpoint to my take on participatory teaching. “I’m paid to have control,” she said. More than one person in the room gasped.
I should have directed her to the new Horizon Report. Among the key trends identified as those impacting teaching and learning for 2013 is an emphasis on “open.” The report states, “Open is a key trend in future education and publication, specifically in terms of open content, open educational resources, massively open online courses, and open access.”
Open teaching, open courses, open minds. It struck me that emphasizing control over what students read, how they respond to discussion questions, and how, essentially, they learn might not be the best path forward when technology and other trends are rapidly changing the learning landscape. The evolution of trends marked by the Horizon Report is fascinating. (See my columns “Learning Everywhere,” LJ 4/15/12, p. 48, and “Scanning the Horizon,” LJ 3/15/11, p. 86, for previous explorations of the report and its relation to LIS education, libraries, and librarians.) The 2013 trends include the aforementioned open everything, the significance of informal learning opportunities, socially focused connected learning, and the hurtling locomotive known as MOOCs (massive open online courses).
I always apply the Horizon trends directly to LIS students and the work they will do in various information environments. The Horizon Report notes that in addition to formal coursework, “allowing for more open-ended, unstructured time where they are encouraged to experiment, play, and explore topics based on their own motivations” can benefit students and prepare them for the world of work.
I’m reminded of Finland’s school system, where an emphasis on “whatever it takes” and play as learning has created one of the best educational systems in the world. Students in the United States are missing out, especially as teaching to the test replaces these key concepts.
In the workplace, I hope new librarians are given a chance to “play” as part of a continuous emphasis on learning. The commenter who wrote in a letter to LJ that “[n]one of those who don’t have enough time to get the work done have time to ‘play,’ ” I would respectfully disagree. Henry Jenkins defined play as “the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving.” Isn’t that the type of librarian we want as colleagues? Problem-solvers who can find solutions by active consideration of the issue? To me, that’s a significant component of “learning to learn.”
Another key trend—“The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators”—speaks directly to the open versus control debate above. I would advocate flipping everything we can in LIS education. Flipping is defined as inverting norms within education. Flipped classrooms might come in the form of open social spaces where students can learn, reflect, and interact with practitioners. Flipped resources might occur in the form of open source textbooks that grow and evolve as quickly as ideas and trends do. How much longer is it feasible and useful to require students to purchase books that cost $60 or more when these static tomes collide with the potential of open access articles, chapters, and interactive content?
A buzz-worthy, hot topic of the day is that the MOOC brings these ideas together. An arena of connected, open learning—offered for free—has the potential to impact not only higher ed but library services as well. How will we support students of all kinds in MOOCs? What happens to the potential for professional development and lifelong learning when courses can gather the best of the best in a field and offer experiences and exploration anywhere? What barriers need to fall in our institutions to promote these opportunities?
In these spaces, control flips as well. Guess what, educator—you are no longer in charge of your realm! Giving students control recognizes them as active contributors to the learning process, engages them in a way in which they’re accustomed to operating, and is built on mutual respect.
Consider the future of the hyperlinked library. It might be a little less structured than that to which we are accustomed. It might be messy at times. But there’s synchronicity in some of the recent themes of my columns—chaos, participatory culture, learning everywhere—and the trends identified in the report. The shifts noted above will surely impact not only LIS education but all libraries that support learning. Losing a bit of control opens the heart and the mind to what the future will bring.