Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century: a potential conversation opportunity

Anyone remotely interested in education, this entire current issue of Educational Leadership is a MUST read. It is devoted to “What Students Need to Learn.”

I stumbled onto the issue, thanks to this article, The Humanities: Why Such a Hard Sell?

Historically, democratic societies have recognized three broad purposes of schooling: personal, economic, and civic. At the personal level, schools have helped students discover and cultivate individual interests, talents, and tastes; form good habits; and develop an understanding of what it means to lead a good life. Schools have prepared students to contribute productively to the economy by preparing them to pursue a vocation or further study leading toward some profession. And schools have achieved civic goals by equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to be good citizens. Together these three imperatives have constituted a holistic understanding of persons as having private, productive, and civic selves.

That holism has atrophied. The civic purpose of schools, when invoked at all, is usually an afterthought, treated largely as a by-product of the economic imperative to develop 21st century skills said to be essential to the modern workforce. The personal dimension of schooling has been reduced to self-expression and self-advancement, wherein a school’s value is defined primarily by whether it helps students earn credentials that will make them employable.

As a high school and college student, I heavily benefitted from a combined history and literature focus. American history and American Literature was team-collaboration effort at that time in my high school. In college, with few exceptions, every single college student at my university was required to take 12 hours of western civilization: 6 hours each semester that was team-taught by a history and English professor.

“Civ for Life”

“An unexamined life is not worth living”

“Generalizations backed up by facts”.

These are just some of the phrases that have stuck with me from those class-times. They impacted my life in countless ways, and it had very little to do with the specific knowledge gained from learning about The Scarlett Letter or World War II or All Quiet on the Western Front or the Renaissance. Instead, it was about the discussions, the inquiry, the drawing larger conclusions, and gaining a greater understanding of the foundations of this country and western civilization. [Since I left college, I believe they’ve expanded civ to also include a requirement for world civ, yes?] But I digress…

I’m not an educator by formal training. However, librarians, professors, and teachers — we’re all educators, just in different venues, different delivery modes, and different skill sets:

Early childhood literacy.

adult education.

lifelong learning



But at the end of the day, we want those whose lives we’ve touch to gain knowledge and then impact the world with that knowledge.

I have friends and colleagues in all these different areas. We all talk in our little bubbles of our profession, what some call “the echo chamber“. In our professional circles, we chat face-to-face, at conferences, online, on listservs, in journals, in emails about what needs to happen to change education and lifelong learning in a society that needs the tools to learn, unlearn, and relearn faster than any other time in history.

What if we all got together, and talked about the future of education, the possibilities, if testing didn’t exist, if the self-created university did formally exist and how it might look?

(I believe it does already thanks to growing open access education content; Yale course lectures on the American Civil War, anyone?)

Could we together come up with some creative new ways and approaches to education? We all have unique skill sets and professional knowledge that complements each other. What if we all worked together? What could we come up with if we dreamed?

Read the Educational Leadership issue I linked to at the beginning of this post and let me know what you think about this idea of a joint conversation. We all see education and that how it currently exists on a large scale isn’t working for some reason. It’s not the teachers (there’s always bad apples, but for every bad one there’s 20 amazing teachers out there), we have access to more knowledge and information than ever before (maybe too much?), so why aren’t kids learning, thinking, analyzing, critiquing, critically thinking, solving problems and issues, becoming civicly engaged (NOT necessarily partisan)?

Even more critical, prior to the information revolution of the last twenty years, you could stop learning if you wanted to, after high school, vocational school, or college, and still survive. But in today’s society of fast-paced information change and rapid knowledge creation, deconstruction, and recreation, I don’t believe people can ever stop learning if they are to be successful in the job marketplace. And again, it’s not necessarily the specific knowledge that comes out of the learning: it’s the discussion, engagement, critical thinking, comparing that makes you a better worker, a better leader, and a better community builder. It’s a lifelong learning society.

So how do we create this lifelong learning society [and maybe help k-12 education in the process without all the silly so-called reform ideas that people know are band-aids, missing the big problems]? I think K-12 educators, university professors, and librarians of all types would be a good group to bring together to start this discussion.

Am I off my rocker on this? Let me know in the comments!

Session Four & Day Two of Summer Institute

I unfortunately had to leave the Summer Institute after the third session yesterday, and missed session four of Buffy’s talk on Tools for Transparency, Advocacy, and Instructional Leadership. Check out her LibGuide resources for Part Four to see what she covered. I will post a link to her slides here when they are posted online.

I left the Institute, because I went and picked up author and illustrator Mark Crilley from the airport. He was to speak today to the Summer Institute group about his books and his career as an author and illustrator. I had a great time visiting with him on the trip back to Emporia, and discovered along with his writing, he also has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates a lot of drawing tips. It’s worth checking out!

I also missed Mark’s talks today, along with Mickey Coalwell & Royce Kitts’ presentation on graphic novels, because I drove Buffy Hamilton back to the airport for her flight out. If I become aware of any online resources from either presentation, I will post it here.

Update: “The Cat” from the State Library of Kansas has a great summary post about day 2 of the institute up over on the State Library of Kansas news blog. The post includes links to the slides from Royce & Mickey’s presentations.

I had a wonderful time visiting with Buffy on both trips to and from the airport. Such an amazing and inspiring librarian. If you haven’t checked out her own online resources, or her school library’s resources, you really must! It was really great to have her in Kansas. I hope all the school librarians who were able to be at the Summer Institute enjoyed her presentations and the discussion times & if you weren’t able to be there, that these blog posts were helpful to you in some way. Here’s several links to those resources (but I realize it’s not everything).

Session Two: Tools for Content Creation and Networked Learning

Wrapup comments from last session: Building tribe (Seth Godin’s book Tribes) — getting buy-in. That’s part of participatory librarianship. Helps students see that research in the library isn’t just for school work and homework that stops when you’re out of school.

Look at the resources on the pathfinder — lots of real-life examples are there, at different grade levels.

Part 2: Tools for Student Content Creation and Networked Learning: Media 21 Project

  • “learning is the process of creating connections and developing a network.”
  • connectivism learning theory (how do we help students connect the dots of learning
  • Michael Wesch at K-State was an inspiration for this. Digital Ethnography. Teach Web 2.0
  • Wendy Drexler second inspiration. “Networked Student” focus not on shiny tools, but how you apply them for practical learning.
  • Comment: Media 21 is a district level program
  • Lots of Goals: research is ongoing… (and other points) see slides later.
  • This was not a separate curriculum; it was identified and embedded into a sophomore English class.
  • Empowered students to become own information filters…
  • Two sections of Honors Literature/Composition; Buffy was a co-teacher. Conceptual model of librarian and classroom as co-teachers in the classroom setting.

The chemistry and collaborative partnership with the teacher. Interviews available with the collaborative teacher on the section page. Partnership worked because of teacher’s willingness to take risk & to share the classroom. For so long teaching is seen as a solitary act, but some of that is changing. Librarian can help facilitate this change for 21st century learning.

Beginning of program (august 2009)

  • introduction of concept of “networked student”
  • intro of essential learning tools and cloud computing (wikis, gmail, google docs, blogs) (digital native a myth? many of the students had never heard of these tools; even email attachments was a new concept; can’t assume background knowledge; must be willing to adapt to students’ beginning knowledge & do what’s best for them)
  • exploration of social media & culture at large, as an info source for research (evaluating Wikipedia, for example)
  • Focused on wikis, exploring tools; intro’d class blog.
  • Learned about Google tools
  • Learned you didn’t have to be tied to a flash drive – use cloud computing tools
  • Many students didn’t have computers at home or had software at home (like Microsoft Word)
  • Build in the time for teaching the students the tools; many students won’t pick it up intuitively. Provide the support. If you support them in the beginning, and spend time up front on learning the tools, it will really help with student buy-in and use of the tools.
  • Students brainstormed pros and cons of using social media in education
  • Reflections: time: more needed for this type of immersed learning for the students; For teachers: more time needed for planning, creating, reflecting; students were engaged; embrace the messiness & chaos; students were patient & open-minded

September 2009

  • inquiry into social media for social good (essay & conversations in class)
  • Book tasting Menu. An overall theme was there (Africa). Students sampled the books, reading for 5-7 minutes, and then rated the books, choosing which one they wanted to read in a group.
  • Student reflections were ongoing during the program.
  • “when I blog….I feel like people are listening”
  • students extended learning to real-world situations
  • Students loved the Google tools & blogging
  • Mixed feelings about wetpaint; switched to Google Sites
  • students loved group & collaborative activities
  • students indicated they needed help with certain writing strategies

October – November 2009

  • intro to research initiative
  • original content creation
  • reflection and transparency
  • knowledge building
  • lit circle meetings, maintaining notes from these meetings & reading
  • Diigo used to bookmark web-based resources, also Noodletools (Subscription)

Learning Artifacts: Issues in Africa

  • blog posts
  • lit circle
  • wikis
  • diigo bokmarks
  • noodletools list and notes
  • a written paper, required 3-5 pages, but many students wrote 10-12 page papers of their own free will; students really got into their research; flexibility given for resources.
  • five multigenre articacts and relcections
  • online learning portfolios built using google sites brought all of this together


  • Students loved Google news & Gale Global issues in context database
  • This project was the first time students could take ownership of their learning (Testing generation)
  • Some resistance to this type of learning.
  • Students couldn’t just read off their research; they had to embrace it as their own.
  • Students embraced the principles and concepts of presentation zen
  • Students overcame their fears of public speaking
  • Project was originally only for the semester, but students asked for this type of continued learning, instead of a return to the traditional mode.
  • Assessment felt murky. “New Assessments for New Learning” –Will Richardson post from yesterday.

Veterans’ Issues (March-May 2010) (took a two month break)

  • personal learning environments with netvibes/info dashboards to be shared publicly
  • social bookmarking with evernote
  • google sites portfolios
  • interviews with real world experts <– new requirement for the program
  • presentation zen
  • Class site
  • Students began creating information dashboards for their project. Visual way of telling the story of research. Videos; RSS Feeds from resources + from fellow students; Google Books; Databases widgets; several students went above and beyond, creating multiple tabs for different types of resources.
  • Real student work examples linked on over on the libguide
  • One student had a realworld expert get in touch with him via his project blog; engaged the person online & ended up interviewing him.
  • Most valuable research skill obtained was learning to come up with a realworld expert — letters of inquiry.
  • Students came in on lunch hour on their own free will; students cared about their topics & went above & beyond as a result.

Learned overall

  • baby steps are okay
  • anticipate pushback
  • learning isn’t linear
  • value collaboration and teamwork
  • building own personal learning network; teachers were the guides on the side. Students were taking ownership of their work. Saw fruition of the program’s vision through what the students were doing.
  • Trick is cultivating the partnership with the teachers.

This isn’t THE model, or the way to go. But this is one way to embrace those standards and guidelines for school libraries. More teachers have seen what the class has done, heard the kids talk about it, and now more teachers want to it.

Why Diigo, not Delicious? Diigo has a group feature. Some networking issues also were present. Students were given choice of Evernote or Diigo second semester, since there were mobile apps available for Evernote. If Firefox had been available, Delicious could have been used.

Blogathon: Louisville Public Library flooded; social media for social good being covered, and library world did an online blogathon to raised money for their efforts. Library Society of the World headed it up. Students wrote about why they loved libraries. “libraries are the places where dreams begin,” one student comment. Students were sponsored for their blog posts.

Presentation Zen: minimal text; pictures; not just reading slides word-for-word. Not “death by powerpoint”

Cell Phone Usage: how do you get past schools blocking them? Buffy started emailing principal articles & blog posts about cell phone usage in the classroom in spring 2009. Also talked to him a lot during the summer. He also saw his own kids using these devices. When the school came back in session, he told his teachers that it was permitted for education usage. Cultivated the culture to show why these tools should be used. Even if at first the ideas sound crazy, keep trying & feeding information. Very gently feed them pieces of information & back into it.

Summer Institute: Session One

Overall Theme of the Institute: New Tools for New Generations: Viable Tools for Effective Student Learning

  • creation of a library with fluid boundaries
  • focus on a flexible learning environment influenced by the interactive global community
  • respond to diverse learning needs
  • teaching multiple literacies

Featured books, a focus on Standards:

Dr. Jackie Lakin from the Kansas State Department of Education (Education Program Consultant — Information Management; Advocate for Kansas School Libraries & School Librarians), briefly talked about standards and the coming common core standards. She also briefly covered the latest with state assessments and upcoming changes.

Buffy Hamilton (The Unquiet Librarian, @buffyjhamilton) is today’s speaker. She’ll be covering:

  1. Tools for Participatory Learning
  2. Tools for Content Creation and Networked Learning
  3. Tools for Transliteracy
  4. Tools for Transparency, Advocacy, and Instructional Leadership

The day’s resources, and topics can be found at the LibGuide for the workshop.

Day’s plan for the different sessions: Buffy will share ideas, time to work in small groups, and then come back as a large group.

– Foursquare librarianship: unlocking worlds of learning

Foursquare: Some libraries using this as incentives to patrons.

Buffy’s school is “The Unquiet Library, Creekview HIgh School, Canton, GA” When the library first opened at the new high school, Buffy envisioned it would be place for conversations, and would disrupt the traditional library environment. The name based off Matthew Battle’s book, “Library: An Unquiet History”

Session One: Tools for Participatory Learning (aka Reference; this topic is covered in chapter 1 of empowered learners; it replaces “Information Power”.)

  • need to create and nurture a participatory culture that invites conversations for learning, multiple forms of literacy, and multiple modes of learning

– How to we spark conversations, face to face and virtually? values learning as conversation over objects; knowledge construction and creation.

(Trying to catch all her points but missing some; will link to the slidedeck when it is posted).

  • Heart of library is inquiry: asking question, and learning process.
  • Librares are in the change business. (changing needs of learners, education system, and learners); we can either embrace the change, in a “playful endeavor”. Must show students that learning is not static and can be positive.
  • “Why” AND “Why Not?” (funny, considering Will Richardson’s post this morning, Yeah, You’ve Got Problems, So Solve Them)
  • Go beyond the walls and barriers — getting beyond the obstacles to achieve a better learning environment for students
  • open doors to invite spaces for conversation and learning (Face to Face & virtually)
  • Nurture creativity and learning experiences (lose the joy when facing pressure of mandates & responsibilities)

Creating Conversations for formal learning

  • aasl standard 1 : inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge (Creating knowledge, also)
  • aasl standard 2: draw conclusions….
  • aasl standard 3: digital citizenship…
  • aasl standard 4: pursue personal and aesthetic growth (this one can get lost in the shuffle)

How to create conversations about info evaluation and social scholarship with research pathfinders?

Used to know traditional sources of information clearly. Now need to evaluating wikipedia, youtube, blog posts, twitter streams.

  • Research Pathfinders & subject guides: may be using pbwiki, frontpage, google sites, dreamweaver, wikispaces; regardless of the tool used, you’re creating an online medium for class resources, to help students know which resources are valid for that topic, and these can be accessed later. Teacher may not have their finger on the pulse of the changing landscape of information.
  • RSS Feeds into the pathfinder
  • Google Books (can point students toward good resources)

Collaborative knowledge building through wikis:

  • Speed dating interviews: students were reading articles, and students would then interview each other in pairs; the results of the interviews were posted onto the class wiki. Responses were then used as a springboard for a larger essay assignment on the pros and cons of social media, that was a persuasive essay all students wrote.
  • literature circle wiki: students were reading fiction and non-fiction; engaging in research on those topics/issues. Teacher used Google Sites to share the results & students were able to comment on their classmates’ work, even those in other class sections.
  • Wikispaces is most K-12 friendly; Wetpaint no longer as ad-free option for educators
  • Post-it-notes: Students read articles about Twitter and used post-it-notes to share their thoughts on twitter


  • not just posting about what you’re reading, but also blog about the research you’re carrying out. Talk about obstacles; successes; overcoming challenges, about resources used. It’s active reflection and metacognition.
  • Younger students could be video-taped and could talk about what they’re learning
  • Students at Buffy’s school said blogging was their favorite activity. Weren’t going through the motions, but had to think about the process, plus were able to see what other students were doing, comment on their work, plus opened up their writing to outside experts in the real world.

Digital citizenship and ethical use of information:

  • Alternative presentation methods: Presentation Zen: getting away from Death by Powerpoint (AMEN!)
  • Students had conversations about their searching for using images in their presentations. (Using creative commons Flickr photos, for example)
  • Presentations were then carried out; self-assessment through Google Forms.
  • Students talked about how they couldn’t copy & paste anymore, had to actually know the material, plus had to connect with audience

Alternative ways of creating/sharing/organizing knowledge

  • Multi-genre elements (Tom Romano pioneered this)
  • voicethread
  • video (One TrueMedia for remixing)
  • glogster (interactive electronic posters)
  • possibilities are endless
  • songs; original artwork; interpretative dance; Facebook page for a character
  • Google Mashup
  • Book trailer
  • Games
  • Made the element public in a research portfolio; helps other students be inspired and shows alternative methods of knowledge creation & sharing.
  • Netvibes: personal learning environments and learning artifacts

Shared knowledge construction (learning transparent)

  • Cloud Computing: Google Docs (Writing and editing document together)
  • Social Bookmarking: Diigo: Group Bookmarks
  • Diigo: Sticky notes/highlighting
  • Evernote: another notetaking resource
  • Blog comments — engaging in conversations

Creating conversations for community

  • give students a voice and ownership
    • book displays (even simple ones make teens stop and pause)
    • book/genre promotion (ntl’ poetry month)
    • cozy reading areas and displays (Ex. Shakespeare center: have traditional resources + graphic novels and anime versions — students suddenly start reading MacBeth & Romeo and Juliet & talk about it)
    • use of physical space — shows library isn’t just a place of silence
    • collection reflecting student needs (Graphic novels & anime)
    • gift cards and giveaways
    • materials request (suggest library materials)
    • book/magazine requests (Personalized service)
    • poetry slidecasts/podcasts (Supporting student work)
    • student poetry/student favorites (clothesline)
    • Flickr
    • Collection Remix

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” –Joseph Chilton Pearce

  • Reader’s theatre
  • Pokemon cards & gaming
  • Asked students to share their knowledge about these “play” tools on the library blog.
  • These students are often the ones who are marginalized suddenly are looked up to as experts. It speaks volumes to them; they get the sense that the library is a place where they are valued.
  • Get students talking & sharing their expertise.
  • Board games & puzzles
  • Teachers love it too — mind-candy & stress-busters
  • Build report with them & relationship; builds opportunities for collaboration
  • Musical events & performances
  • Trivia days; pizza parties.
  • Students sharing their passions.
  • Promotion: Library Secrets promotion by both students & teachers
  • Polls — voting tools
  • Mobile learning through cell phones
  • Going to where the kids are at.
  • Physical space

After break, look at the resources for Participatory Librarianship, especially the examples on the left.

Pivot Points for Change Session

Connecting the dots of information literacy with social media.

Buffy Hamilton, Internet & Schools East, April 2010.

Presentation slides

Rethinking ways we can instruct our students with information literacy.

– How do we support and scaffold students’ ability to read and write an ever-growing world of information?

– How do we adapt our pracitce as librarians to effectively cultivate informationally fluent students who will thrive in today’s society? — help them learn to analyze/evaluate information.

-Seth Godin: “when industry norms start to die, people panic. it’s difficult to change when you think that you must change everything in order to succeed. Changing everything is too difficult.”

– strategic changes are much more helpful than changing everything.

Don’t reinvent the wheel; instead, find pivot points for change.

Pivot Point #1:

Keep your traditional sources of authoritative information in your research pathfinders, but let the research topic and mode of research guide the integration of social media information sources and tools for delivering that content to help students navigate the maze of today’s information world.

– days of trusting the printed reference book has come and gone. Teachers must get their heads around new authorities.

AASL 21st Century Standards

New Resources for Authorities

  1. podcasts — students much more engaged at times if they listen or watch resources. Lots of resources now provide podcast; lots of authoritative information being delivered through podcasts.
    1. PBS
    2. CNN
    3. students weren’t just reading about situations; they were able to experience the situations.
    4. Podcasts can be a free and dynamic way to capture student interests
  2. Blogs — lots of experts blogging about issues.
    1. Homefires Blog (veterans transitioning back into mainstream civilian life)
    2. Netvibes — RSS feeds from several blogs all on one page
    3. Students prefer to read the blogs over a textbook — they are much more organic and students are engaged. Plus blogs are free; textbooks are not.
  3. Twitter
    1. #iranelection
    2. way to get current information about current issues.
  4. Youtube/video
    1. YouTube blocked at schools, use Zamzar to download and convert YouTube videos.
    2. Treasure trove of videos that are free and online and full of information that students can use and explore.
    3. Video used as a teaser; then, students really got excited about learning and researching.
  5. Google Maps/mashups
    1. taking data and putting it into map form
    2. Embassies Accepting Injured People in Iran
    3. Swine Flu Google Map
  6. RSS Feeds
    1. Librarians’ best friends
    2. Database vendors (including Ebscohost & Gale) have RSS feeds
    3. Newspapers, Twitter, Podcasts all have RSS Feeds
    4. Streams of information to push the information out to students
    5. Google News
  7. RSS Feeds/Widgets
    1. Don’t have to be an html expert to create widgets; already created for you.
    2. News, Topics, possibilities are endless

Teaching research is much more fun today, because so many tools available to teach research. Traditional research pathfinders are no longer. So many ways now to display research information in ways students will use them, and they are free

Pivot Point #2:

Keep focusing on teacher collaboration, but focus on creating conversations…

Create conversations about collaboration, leadership, and social responsibility….

  1. research wiki (wetpaint)
    1. building living textbook
    2. continually being updated and created
    3. share with other classes involved with the same project. very rich and informative discussions in class
    4. cross-collaboration with students; no more lone-wolf learner in era of testing; how do we share information & replicate what we see in the real world
  2. literature circle wiki
    1. book trailers
    2. notes on the face-to-face meetings posted to the class wiki.
    3. have follow-up discussions online through the class wiki, through comments on the discussion notes.

Pivot Point #3:

keep assesing student learning using traditinoal tools, but use alternative modes of assessment like blog to engage students in metacognition and to activiely reflect on their research strategities.

create conversation about adaptability and research strategies using blogs.

  1. research student blogs
    1. students get excited about the research. “Life changing, these two words give a perfect summary of what this project has been for me….” –student blog comment
    2. Real world experts comment on student research blogs.
    3. Students engage, think about topics, and connect with real-life experts.
    4. Learning tool not just for one research project. Blogs are a way to have a voice and get ideas out there. Ideas have value and meaning

Pivot Point #4:

Keep teaching students how to access and consume information, but place….


  1. multi-genre artifacts — can differentiate instruction & open up students who have abilities in other areas. Can learn online safety skills through these projects. Presentation Zen ideas covered.
    1. Facebook Page
    2. Voicethread
    3. Glogster
    4. Two Voice Poem
    5. Skit
    6. Song
  2. Presentation Zen: Students had to think about the content, not just regurgitate. Had to learn to connect with the audience.

Pivot Point #5:

Keep creating research pathfinders for students, but teach students how to forge their own paths for learning and building their own information portals

Learning is the process of creating own network…. (student created netvibes portal) (student created netvibes portal)

Students so excited about researching and learning about their topics.


  1. Baby steps are ok.
  2. anticipate some initial pushback, from both students & teachers. –for first time students were being asked, “What do you think?” Some students were ok, some not so much.

Embrace the messiness of social scholarship and questions of authority.

  1. Rules are hard & fast now; not firm. What is authoritative. If students can articulate this, they have mastered these skills.
How do you go about getting some of these tools unblocked? Check out Buffy’s Fighting the Filter Presentation.