Transforming Information Flow in School Libraries

Schools have long functioned as information gatekeepers. The flow of information in most classrooms is simply teacher > student > teacher. Many whole group "discussions" are dominated by teachers playing "guess what I'm thinking" and feeling the need to validate every student response. Picture the economics teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off . "Anyone.. Anyone..?" Much of the rest of schools – textbooks, libraries, labs – support the idea that the adults have the information and will ration it out to students in a measured flow. 

We lament that many students aren't motivated in class. I suspect that's because our students are becoming accustomed to a more horizontal and open information flow. They have an ever growing expectation for more control and functionality over the information they access, save, repurpose and share.

How long do we think public schools will be able to monopolize the flow of academic information? Look around us and see that the traditional information gatekeeper  model is failing. Chicago Tribune? Layoffs at NPR? Christian Science Monitor going to web only? Shouldn't we be rethinking the information architecture in our schools?

In his recent article, "Flip This Library: School Libraries Need a Revolution" School Library Journal (11/1/2008),  David Loertscher,  calls for a  a revolution in thinking about the form and function of information in the school library. He envisions a 

"learning commons – both a physical and a virtual space that’s staffed not just by teacher-librarians but also by other school specialists … such as literacy coaches, teacher technologists, teacher-librarians, art teachers, music teachers, and P.E. teachers…"

The main objective of the open commons is to showcase the school’s best teaching and learning practices… a typical classroom assignment and library Web site are examples of one-way communication. Adults tell learners what to do, how to do it, and where to find information. But in the new learning commons, homework assignments and library Web sites offer two-way communication.  

… Having done that, note that you have created a revolution in thinking. Directive adults have been transformed into coaches; direct teaching has been transformed into collaborative inquiry. 

Sidebar from the article below. 


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