Learning and the Jungonauts
Post submitted by Susan Ballard, director of library media and technology services for the Londonderry (N.H.) School District, chair of Whole Child Partner the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, and an emerging Jungonaut.
Some years ago, during a presentation, I mentioned the Descartian observation: Cogito, ergo sum, or "I think, therefore I am." When break time came, one of the attendees shared his version for the Internet age: Jungo, ergo sum, or "I link, therefore I am." This really struck a chord with me. Upon arrival home, I printed up a sign and slapped it on the side of my trusty computer as a reminder of the power of connectivity.
When I first heard the phrase, I thought of the "link" only as hardware, infrastructure, and files, but today I see how Jungo, ergo sum perfectly describes students who interact with ideas, information, and one another through immediate access to digital content, social networking, and virtual spaces. And because of this phenomenon, like the mariners of mythology, Jason and the Argonauts, we find ourselves and our students setting out on a new voyage of discovery. We are linked, connected, and joined up in an adventure of uncertainties and possibilities presented by the digital age.
From our perspective as school librarians, highly qualified to navigate the sea of information in all formats, to organize and manage delivery to the end-user, and provide instruction in the effective, efficient, and ethical use of resources, we struggle to make the best choices. To keep up and do the right thing, we familiarize ourselves with research and best practices. We read professional literature and participate in electronic discussion lists, wikis, and webinars. We attend face-to-face professional development opportunities. We set up RSS readers to ensure we don't miss anything on a must-read blog or from a favorite news service. We design our library websites to make them relevant and interesting. We use every means to keep abreast of developments and stay on course. But just when we seem to have a sense of direction and an idea of where to head, something new comes along that alters the learning compass.
When this happens, I reach for a set of navigational charts to guide me. AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs, and Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action set my course and direction. It is no accident that we have branded our implementation of them as Learning4Life (L4L), as that is what we are striving to achieve.
From their perspective, 21st-century students are likely to throw caution to the wind and sail straight ahead without second-guessing a device, service, site, or an app. We marvel at their lack of temerity and defiance of hazards that we regularly anticipate and plan for. "Watch out," we caution them. "Dangers are lurking, and here there be monsters." To which they seem to retort, "This is how we learn—by doing, by experiencing, by reaching out to the crowd and participating! What's wrong with that?" Truth be told, we don't appear to have an answer, other than we are concerned for their safety and their wallets. But perhaps by trying to reconcile our experience with our students' natural curiosity, and their growing expertise in using technology and social media, we may find common cause. We must meet them where they are and share our knowledge and wisdom to convince them that they really do need to be cautious at times, to be strategic in how they use today's incredible resources. We can help young people make those resources work for them while spending their time and money wisely.
Connecting with the connected means consideration of where 21st-century students learn. They are not so much place-based as virtual-space-based. They learn everywhere. We need to understand their comfort zones and new habitats, and remain connected ourselves. We are not the only ones asking them to pay attention in class anymore. We have serious competition 24/7 from the virtual world-at-large.
So how do we embed the concepts that L4L represents into students' consciousness? Connecting our services and the global knowledge economy with students offers many challenges, but we have incredible multi-modality tools available to help them access the curriculum and to individualize and transform the learning experience.
There is still a compelling a need for us to travel with and alongside these intrepid Jungonauts, and ensure they complete their quest, find their own personal Golden Fleece and achieve their goals. It is our role as skillful navigators of the education and information world to help them make necessary course corrections on their voyage. Through L4L, AASL is committed to ensuring that learners develop the skills, dispositions, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies needed to ensure they are learning for life and reach their full potential.