"The Role of Libraries in Learning Communities," written by Rebecca J. Pasco in Curriculum Connections edited by Barbara K. Stripling and Sandra Hughes-Hassell, Libraries Unlimited, 2003.
I first heard about the concept of Learning Communities in my Communication for Leadership class, LIS 716. During that class, we watched a video about the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) and how they became a learning community. The idea of a learning community is that the entire organization, top to bottom, encompasses both learners and teachers. Everyone can participate in learning opportunities as well as the opportunity to share what they know.
It sounds really great, and I could certainly envision this in a school situation. However, my concept of a learning community changed a bit this week. Unfortunately, I can't remember who told me this, but someone I talked to during the past week talked about Technology Tuesdays where teachers AND STUDENTS were invited to come to the computer lab in the library and learn a new tech tool! I'm not sure why I was so surprised at this. I guess I envisioned a school as a learning community within the staff only. In my mind, of course the kids were learners and staff members were teachers! Why can't the kids be a part of this?
I wonder how this would work in my building. For the most part, I think my staff is pretty comfortable about telling kids that they don't know everything and we all learn together. But, when it comes to technology, some staff members may not feel comfortable having students around while they are learning something new. As a person running one of these classes, however, I would love to have some kids in there with me! It's likely that they'll catch on quickly and be able to help the staff members!
Another great thing about having kids present is that they're usually not afraid to try new things. In years past, I would show my students the basics of a tech tool and in 20 minutes they had mastered those skills and found several things I had never seen before. I always learned something from the kids.
As librarians, we need to be teaching and supporting our students in such a way that life long learning is the ultimate goal. According to Pasco, "Learning communities emphasize connected knowing and the integration of ideas." (p. 191) These communities "facilitate active and collaborative learning and new opportunities for students and educators to construct and demonstrate understanding." (p. 191) This is exactly the environment that fosters life long learning. When students learn to work together, to be responsible for their own learning, when their curiosity and risk taking is valued and encouraged, then school becomes a place for excitement and enthusiasm rather than drudgery and boredom.