I followed with interest the 2017 Australian Library Design Awards and was encouraged to see the quality of the School Libraries that were nominated for the Awards. New Library spaces invite the student to become the expert encouraging them to play, create and innovate. And Teacher Librarians have a very real opportunity to position their school library as the catalyst to drive the shift in learning perspectives to one focused on the future job skills — they only need to take it.
The new basics: Big data reveals the skills young people need for the New Work Order. Jobs of the future demand enterprise skills 70% more than jobs of the past.
Among Australia’s 15 year olds, 35% demonstrated low proficiency in problem solving, 27% demonstrated low proficiency in digital literacy, 29% demonstrated low proficiency in financial literacy.
Only 1 in 10 teachers have recently participated in professional development to help students develop generic, transferable skills for future work. This is a real opportunity for school librarians to take a leading role in developing their libraries as the learning playground to develop these generic transferable skills, especially in the areas of literacy, digital literacy, and problem solving. Teacher Librarians cannot continue to operate the school library and the programs within the school library as they have in the past. Advocacy, innovation, and passion are key to ensure that school libraries are maintained and Teacher Librarians are valued and employed. Those that do not innovate will become obsolete and that will include school libraries — remember encyclopaedias?
The story of Thomas Suarez shows us that digital tools allow digital disruptors to bring an idea to fruition regardless of age, background, nationality and school libraries should be at the forefront of enabling their students to do this. The mindset is for young people — our future workers — to make stuff. Not to passively consume content but to make content. And that is a big change for school libraries used to students who wait in line to consume our content, based on our rules designed for a one size fits all approach. Most 12-year-olds love playing videogames — but Thomas Suarez taught himself how to create them.
Another student entrepreneur is Taj Pabari — Taj, in 2015 a Year 11 student at John Paul College at Daisy Hill near Brisbane, won the Young Innovators category of The Australian Innovation Challenge for the ImaginTech tablet kit, since rebranded as the Fiftysix tablet kit. The 15-year-old student had expected the kits, which are designed to teach children about computer hardware and software, to be in stores by now but their release has been delayed. Taj, the chief executive of Fiftysix Creations, a company set up to commercialise the kits, said design modification to the hardware since the production of prototypes by a Chinese manufacturer earlier this year had caused delays. And the company had since decided to sharpen the educational focus of the tablets.
Creating confident learners and empowering their ability to own, shape and direct their learning experience is one that school libraries can step up and own. Teacher Librarians can create a Start-up culture in their school libraries with the principles of choice, flexibility, personality and fun in all their daily operations. Students can explore solutions to authentic and meaningful problems through design activities, iteration, evaluations, build and redesign — all skill sets that will set them up well for future employment.
And to do this we do need good library space design. So it was very encouraging to see the value that some schools and colleges placed on their new School Libraries in the Design Awards.
And of course we also need passionate, learning centered Teacher Librarians. Teacher Librarians focused on enhancing their own and their students digital and information literacy, who are curious and playful, willing to try stuff, invite partners in, invite students to choose and create — not the expert but the expert learning facilitator. No new funds for a new school library? Do not despair there are still actions you can take right now.
- Create a space for reflection, reading and thinking — add floor pillows, create a nook within the shelves.
2. Create an active space to spark ideas — add a Thinking Wall, a wall to add thoughts and ideas.
3. Create a collaboration space for group work — it is noisy, has play tools like Lego, for design, making and building.
Enjoy the learning journey as you explore creating that start-up culture in your library with your students.