In his 2012 Ted Talk on the “4 principles of an open world”, Tapscott describes openness as a word that ‘denotes opportunity and possibilities’. Further, he discusses how the technology revolution is opening up the world in the way people collaborate and share information, the transparency of the way organizations interact in the global community and the empowerment that comes from the distribution of knowledge in a connected world. The evolution of the Internet and the role of technology in society have created a global information community, unlike anything experienced by human society in the past. People are connecting across the world, sharing information, ideas, collaborating. Where once access to knowledge was the privilege of those who could read and had access to the printed world, now knowledge is accessible to anyone, used to create, solve problems, innovate in socially connected, collaborative communities. Tapscott describes this global connectiveness as a way of shedding light into areas that before have only known darkness.
So what does this mean for schools and in particular, the role of school libraries and teacher librarians?
The future direction of the 21st century school is one full of possibility and challenge. The past two decades has seen the need for significant changes in the way curriculum knowledge and skills are taught and the integration of technology into the learning and teaching context. Tapscott discusses the impact of the digital world as causing ‘a profound change in the deep structure and architecture of organisations’ and this is inherently true of the educational setting. As schools endeavor to meet the challenges of such profound change, it is possible that the four principles discussed by Tapscott - collaboration, transparency, sharing and empowerment can be applied by our schools, teachers and librarians as a way of shining the light of this technological revolution into the learning and teaching context.
There have been significant mind shifts in the role of both classroom teachers and teacher librarians. Teachers are no longer the holders of information, students no longer the recipients of content and knowledge deemed important by the school boards and curriculum associations. Teacher librarians are no longer the curators of just a collection of print materials. Today’s educational environment requires both classroom teachers and teacher librarians to look at how to use this limitless access to information to build students capabilities to innovate, create and engage with knowledge – to develop the students abilities to collaborate in a digital world. Teacher librarians are an essential component for schools to meet the needs of the students in a technologically connected world. They are information specialists with the skills to create an information-rich learning environment that supports both students and teachers in developing the skills needed to succeed in an online environment. Through collaboration with teachers and students, teacher librarians can teach students information search strategies, develop inquiry-based learning skills, and create opportunities for innovation, creation and engagement.
Classrooms are no longer isolated, stand alone communities of 1 teacher and 30 students. The classroom extends beyond the four walls of the building, into learning communities across the globe. There is an increasing obligation for accountability of schools to be transparent about the way teaching and learning occurs within their school. Classroom teachers and teacher librarians must be able to demonstrate to all stakeholders in the community how the school is actively teaching the necessary skills and strategies for active participation in an online world. Tapscott refers to transparency as a being a very good thing for it forces people to consider how they are representing themselves within the global community – in particular the values and integrity of the organization. For classroom teachers and teacher librarians, it is imperative that they can be seen to be fostering within the learning and teaching context an understanding of responsible digital citizenship. Teacher librarians must include in the information literacy skills they teach an understanding of credibility, accuracy and authenticity of information. As ICT and library budgets increase (or decrease), it must be transparent to the community how this impacts on the way students are taught, how accessible the online world is to them, and the implications for the teaching and learning context of the school. Classroom and libraries cannot be isolated anymore – they must be open to scrutiny – daunting and scary as that sounds, it is the only way to ensure students have the necessary teaching and learning opportunities needed for participation in a globally networked society.
Teachers and schools are learning innovative ways of connecting and networking together, working to share knowledge and intellectual property. Teachers are learning new ways of sharing knowledge with students, developing student skills in searching for information, and using that knowledge to create, build, innovate, develop skills for the 21st century. The open world is a platform that provides endless opportunities for enabling our students to feel empowered. As Tapscott discusses, the internet allows people to be producers of knowledge and ideas in an age of networked intelligence and promise.
Teacher librarians have the skills to bring the online world into the school, building shared networked communities from the outside world that can be used to contributed to the learning and teaching context within the school environment. The 21st century school library is not a separate room within the school, disconnected from the learning experiences of the students and the sole domain of the teacher librarian.
As Tapscott states ‘the world is opening up and it is a good thing’ (2012).