Well, it has been almost two full days since the end of our first face-to-face meeting for Cohort21. I have reflected on the difference between my expectations beforehand, and the experience of the day. Now, I am ready to talk.
Much to my surprise, I have found myself adopting a fairly conservative position on a lot of issues in the teaching profession. I do not mean conservative in the political sense, or at least if I do it is in the oldest possible meaning of the word. Cautious might be a better term. No doubt, these feelings are informed by the way I entered teaching, which is through the library profession. Librarianship, be it in schools or the broader public, must struggle with perceptions of increasing irrelevance in the age of the Internet. When talking about 21st century skills, do most people assume these skills have anything to do with their school library?
The answer should be (and thankfully often is) yes. Many of the tools we were introduced to at the Saturday session are a natural extension of a librarian’s work. Twitter, at its best, is a form of current awareness, allowing participants to share best tools, resources, and practices with each other. Diigo allows us to categorize and classify our web links much the way a library collection is organized. But if we can do all this with these tools am I not signing my profession’s death warrant? I do not think so. One of the reasons I am interested in professional development like Cohort21 is the collaborative element that is at its heart. This collaborative impulse defines every good teacher-librarian (I am still striving for that adjective in my daily practice). It is not just the content of Cohort21 that interests me. It is the model of collaboration that I hope I can share and inspire my colleagues with through the next several months. The best T-L is skills-oriented, there to assist a classroom teacher who must juggle the demands of subject expertise with the teaching and learning process.
Back to conservatism. I have been suspicious of some of the ideas associated with 21st century skills. The first that comes to mind is “the death of content”, or “everything is Google-able”. As a librarian, I am a champion of the long form, the percolating idea, the expansive narrative. I am hoping to learn how to reconcile some of my values with a meaningful embrace of 21st century skills. My sense of the room Saturday suggested this was a very plausible goal.