|Hmmmm! Is this what we’re doing? …Juggling in the airport?|
The other day, I was working at the North Carolina School Library Media Association conference in Winston-Salem. There are basically two school library conferences in this state. In the Fall, it’s the NCSLMA conference, and in the Spring we have the NCAECT. The NCSLMA is usually more book-based, and the NCAECT is oriented toward technology. I present more often at the technology conference and am challenged more often by attendees of the book conference — and last week’s event was no exception.
I was demonstrating Vicki Davis’ wiki site, where her students contribute and organize the content that they will use to study for their tests — how she use to say, “You write me a report about word processing, and you write me a report about quantum computing.” And now she says, “You write the chapter on word processing, and you write the chapter on quantum computing.” It’s one of those suggestions that usually gets heads nodding and pencils wiggling at tech conferences.
But on that day, a woman on the second row, with graphite gray hair and gritted teeth, raised her hand and asked, “But what about authority?” I think I answered the question well. I said something like, “The point of Vicki’s practice is to make the students learners, who are learning from the network of the classroom. We’re trying to move from a learning environment where we teach children how to be taught, and instead, help them learn to teach themselves.”
Then I threw in, “We live in a time of rapid change, where the answers to the tests will be changing during the lifetimes of our children. It has become more important how we learn, and less important what we learn.” This seemed to ring true with most of the inhabitants of that room, but the questioner’s jaws never appeared to relax.
I know now, that although I still believe what I said, I also trivialized the question. That nothing has really happened to authority. The basis for belief has not vanished. It remains important to be able to justify what we write, say, and do — to be able to provide evidence of its accuracy, reliability, validity, and its appropriateness in terms of the goals we’re trying to achieve.
What’s changed is that the responsibility for authority has shifted. The responsibility rests less with the teacher and more with the learner. “In your chapter about quantum computing, it is critical that you site the sources, include a bibliography, and also include information about why this scientist’s perspective on subatomic processors is important to know.”
The skills involved in being an information gatekeeper are no longer exclusively those of the librarian or the teacher. They are now personal skills — and they are basic literacy skills.