So our state provides a subscription to Tutor.com as part of our “homework suite” of services – in-person, online, and virtual reference. When I tried to get caught up on my reading today this article on offshore tutor services caught my eye. I mean, I knew this was going on but I guess I was in denial about how much it cost, etc. $99 a month for unlimited sessions… That’s a pretty good deal but how many families can afford an expense like that? It drives home the point that we are a highly stratified society in which the “haves” can shell out $40-$60 an hour or $99 a month for extra tutoring for their kids and the “have-nots” can’t even think of doing something like that. I’ve heard teachers get a pretty sweet deal occasionally when NCLB requirements have them tutor a kid after school and they pick up an extra $30 or so an hour for that.
It makes me wonder if offering free services like we do through our libraries are devalued. Not because they are of less quality, but because they are explicitly free and therefore are seen as having no value by parents who are used to seeing big price quotes. Maybe we look cheap or shabby? Must muse more on this subject.
Pay particular attention to the spot about 3/4 of the way through where Sir Ken starts talking about epiphany. This is what I obsess about every day at work (and in the shower, on my drive in, etc). I want our library to be a powerful and invisible conduit for young people so they can reach their epiphany. Every time we extend our services to a different demographic, simplify a process, or try to identify easier ways to connect PATRONS with IDEAS, we are speeding their interaction with their true and ultimate destiny. We’re all here to find what it is we are MEANT to do, meant to share with others. The library is either going to be a part of that process in the 21st century or it will very well go extinct.
In the 19th century, we were a civilizing force. A method of sharing the proscribed, acceptable, and palatable mores of society (as it were). But libraries gradually changed over time from the exclusive club for scholars and those striving to attain middle class “values” into something radically different. The moment we unlocked the books and let patrons have open stacks, we were admitting something: you know what you want and need better than we do. And instead of gatekeepers we became lamplighters; fellow travelers who’d been down the road once or twice with friends and who would gladly walk along with you as well.
And in the self-service life of the 21st century, we’re the ones handing you maps to adjacent lands and interesting detours… librarians are the people who want you to consume with abandon– glut yourself in our stacks!– and then we’ll be there when you’re ready to make sense of everything you’ve found. If you need us, we’ll be your Motel 6 and leave a virtual light on for you.
Nowhere is this concept more important than in education. We must prepare for an imminent seismic shift in our educational system that empowers the individual learner to pursue passions and to take intellectual side-trips wherever they may lead… and an entire community must be ready for that. We’ll need both for and non-profit businesses, we’ll need mentors both artisanal and scientific, and most of all we’ll need libraries. We will need massive collections of ideas that people can spark against one another like stone and flint. Libraries will serve as the agora for citizen-learners, throwing off isolation and embracing community in ways that haven’t even yet been invented.
I’m working on an article and a presentation based around web tools for classrooms… (Adapted from Ranganathan‘s 5 Laws of Library Science)
- The web is for use. Let your students make use of the incredible educational world that is out there! Don’t allow fear to eliminate the possibilities for digital learning.
- Every learner deserves access. And I’m not talking about the very limited surfing that you can do in a typical school… there is a fluency that must be gained for efficient and intelligent use of the internet, and students who have no or limited access at home are not gaining the skills they need to be successful as adults in a digital world. They are not “learning the language” of the web.
- Access benefits learners. Students who are exposed to a variety of sites will begin to develop a more sophisticated visual literacy than those of their peers who are left to surf alone. Educational guidance is needed to create responsible and empowered digital citizens of tomorrow. And when you give your students your trust to begin blogging and researching responsibly, you will help them to develop netiquette that can extend into their off-line lives, too.
- Expand the world of the learner. Why can’t your students correspond with their counterparts in the next town over? Or even a world away? Why on earth would you simply study China in a book when you could swap pictures of your hometowns with other kids your age in Bejing? Imagine students being able to contribute to a class project while at home, or on vacation. Imagine your students’ parents being able to contribute to a dialogue about their learning. Imagine fewer boundaries and more possibilities.
- The web is a growing organism (with our help). Don’t let the web grow without your students. Conversely, your students have a great chance to grow alongside it. Imagine replacing the mute and dusty pictures of students long graduated in your school’s gymnasium with living, breathing digital projects that expand year upon year. Or being able to log on ten or more years in the future to hear the voices of kids long past, to absorb their projects and passions, and to build on the ideas and exploration that they started. The future of digitally-based education depends on educators and students of today– so let’s get started!