Connectivism Makes Good Librarianship More Important Than Ever

Connectivism

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As a result of all the tremendous new social networking tools available, connectivism asserts that learning will be (and is already in many cases) a process of students

conglomerating a diverse network of many social ties and information resources made possible via technology. After students are given the proper skills they will read, watch, blog, and create their own personal learning network on a subject. Class time may be a time when students are given the skills needed and then sent to the task. The traditional teacher standing in front of a class and lecturing will be gone, replaced by this time of being given the tools to gather information on their own.

As important as these tools of connectivism are, these modern apparatuses are not as important as the connections, the relationships that are made possible by them. As George Siemens succinctly put it in his conclusion when writing on elearnspace concerning this subject, “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.”

Our classes being taken now in the COETAIL program are a great example of such connectivism. Instead of being given a host of traditional research articles to read, then at the end of the semester turning in a research paper, we are asking to use RSS feeds, twitter, other blogs etc. to discover information on various subjects, then to blog upon it. The blog writings online are available for all to see, and by commenting upon other learner’s blogs we are then capable to create our own personal learning networks. This model provided tremendous potential to come in contact and cultivate relationship with those involved in fields we are most interested in.

I’m our school’s librarian, and at its fundamental level librarianship is concerned with information management. Therefore, if connectivism is pursued in schools the librarian’s job skills become more important than ever. As John Lang, the “lone wolf librarian” posts on his blog, within the connectivism mode the teacher becomes the one who aids student’s in managing the social networks they create. The teacher instructs students how to access and evaluate the information they find online to ensure its credibility. The teacher shows students how to set up these networks. What a valuable skill!

This ability to recognize and access authoritative resources, is this not the traditional role of the librarian? Heading into the future our librarian jobs will be more secure if we return to the traditional skills of our position and apply these skills to modern social networks. Connectivism will provide librarians with a lot more work to do

Personally I’m a bit reassured knowing that while librarian positions are being cut throughout school districts throughout the United States, over the past 3 years in my position I’ve become incrementally busier. What school wouldn’t find it valuable to have on staff a person who is adept at helping students manage continual new and morphing networks of information? If I’m becoming busier and in more demand from the teachers it’s a sign in my work I may be on the right track.

Connectivism comes into play throughout the various grade levels. In particular though I find connectivist skills paramount in assisting our 11th/12th graders in writing their IB extended essays. In reading the criteria by which the essays will be graded, many call for original or primary resources. Currently we have a 12th grader writing his essay on the visual arts, and the IB manual strongly stresses of course not just a rehash of secondary resources but original information. The subject of the essay was totem poles of the native Americans in the pacific northwest. We did not have many books in our limited overseas library on this particular subject, but after going on to youtube.com was able to retrieve a documentary from a college in the Pacific Northwest of USA/Canada which included an interview with a totem pole artist. Once acquiring the artists name was able to go onto facebook and locate him, and after procuring his email address made contact with him and was able to assist the student in arranging an online interview with the artist.

Another student had as her extended essay topic robotic cars, after doing her initial research she sent an email to one of the engineers working on this project at Google, and he provided her with a response. The answers in this email provided her with tremendous, exciting primary research for her extended essay. Most people love sharing or being asked about their knowledge and with modern social networking it is all available. Connectivism is the name put on a concept of learning and information management  that is very exciting for librarians.

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3 Responses to Connectivism Makes Good Librarianship More Important Than Ever

  1. Avatar of Megan Walker Megan Walker says:

    Great post, John! It’s wonderful to hear that you’re becoming busier and more in-demand, and that you are so welcoming of the changes your role as a librarian has undergone. The examples you shared of students using technology to broaden their scope of informational sources for their IB extended essays are fantastic. We made a shift once, from books being a main source of information to searching resources online. Now, as you have illustrated, another shift is happening wherein we don’t just use resources found online, but use various networks to connect in authentic and meaningful ways. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kim Cofino says:

    Navigating the interconnected web of learning that each individual can create is becoming and will continue to become a critical skill – and lucky you, librarians are especially suited to the task. What I find so exciting about Connectivism is the potential to learn, unlearn and relearn as needed with whomever would be the best suited to teach. I love the idea of developing individualized instruction – created by the student for the student.

  3. Avatar of Laura Arleth Laura Arleth says:

    It sounds like your job will become busier but you cannot do this alone. Teachers will also have to become facilitators to help students access information and make connections. I appreciate the examples you gave in the last two paragraphs. I am pleased to learn about what can happen in high school because in elementary there is still so much fear around students searching online and connecting with strangers. I am now more confident that what we are able to do with younger kids is laying a foundation for some truly authentic learning. Beyond differentiation, “individualized instruction” names it perfectly!

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