We are all participants in the online world. Web, text, graphics, blog, zoom, bitmoji, video, podcast, share, portal, avatar, virtual web worlds, augmented reality. As we begin this online journey as teachers and students, there are many bumps, twists and turns in the road ahead for school communities who engage with participatory culture in The Digital Information Landscape. Due to issues of equitable access, some teachers in the time of COVID19 are positioned as lone navigators, the metaphorical equivalent of being lost in the ‘burbs’ with an out dated, tatty hand written map from a pre-digital era.
With new roads in exciting directions being forged every day, COVID19 has recently forced us to consider what learning in the future might look like. As users of technology are getting younger and younger, and the teaching profession, older and older, digital disruption is here to stay. We are now undertaking the same journey, pushed into learning online/ learning at home/e-learning space, with limited time to prepare, or reflect.. Our needs, as teachers and learners are incredibly diverse. How can we be prepared to engage with 21st Century teens, who are fearlessly and recklessly zooming past on the Information Highway in their turbo charged vehicles, with L Plates on display? Aren't they nicknamed Digital Natives?
Any Teacher Librarian will share their alarm at seeing the large number of students using technological tools for superficial ‘cut and paste fixes’ as they 'Just Google It'. Our students may be device savvy, however they are not net savvy. In the age of Information, they risk being Information Illiterate. Students require support to organise, manage and relate to their constantly changing information world. There are risks for the digital generation, the consequences of which could result in unforeseen accidents that have serious implications for valued digital footprints and online safety, namely developing and protecting ones’ cyber image and reputation.
Post Covid19, This is the back tracking that must be done, when life eventually returns to normal in our school communities. There must be a stocktake, of what has been achieved, by whom, and where to from here. We must be careful and know that our transition was not always smooth, but an expectation of a rushed transition to home. What did this opportunity expose? What can be learned? How will we measure the impact? How do we move forward? What structures, systems and cultures in our schools need to exist to take the next step?
Luckily, Teacher Librarians are tech trained mechanics, with web 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 tool kits overflowing. Breakdowns, (communicative, mechanical and informational), can occur on the Information Highway at the most inappropriate times. It is understandable as educators to feel lost, overwhelmed with platforms, choices, equity issues that impact on connection. But this can not be the justification to return to 'normal'. There is no 'normal' anymore, when teachers flipped their instruction virtually, overnight. We are cable of great things, when we allow our mind sets to evolve and grow.
Teacher librarians and teachers, together, can act as road side assistance for our students, aspiring to be a crucial link in teaching and learning in the online space. As educators we must now focus on the transition to providing crucial signposts for leadership, communication, passion, technology, relationships, safety, information skills and so much more, as we aim to not only connect, but collaborate in online learning spaces. This is the teaching and learning that is steep, deep and transformational. Our students must be future ready. So must we.
Prior to COVID19, Teacher Librarians hoped for an invitation to be on the bus with their colleagues and Principals, voyaging into pedagogical territories (known and unknown) together. Post COVID19, The first step for schools is mapping new territories that were explored by those brave enough to grip the wheel and drive. This map should be created, and shared, collaboratively, across the whole school. Who are the key drivers in the online learning space in our schools? As with any map, a tour guide is a handy resource, and one of the most qualified for online learning support, curriculum design and collaboration can be found in your school library. Your teacher librarian wants to connect, but more than this, we want to collaborate.