Seth Godin’s post, “The Reason Riding a Unicycle is Difficult”, struck home with me and reminded me of the importance of scaffolding. How many times have we said, “It doesn’t make sense just yet, but you’ll love it once it does” when introducing a database or web 2.0 tool to students or teachers?
Learning things that are binary like this is quite difficult. They are difficult to market because people don’t like to fail. They’re difficult to master because people don’t like to fall. “You don’t get it, but you will,” is a hard sell.
How do we create the “non-unicycle” moments? How do we provide that appropriate scaffolding so that our students and teachers don’t have to take that huge leap of faith in our promises that something will be easy once they get the hang of it? How do we provide training wheels (or in Seth’s case, Rollerblades) to help our students gain confidence and fluency when we are introducing a new skill?
Thank you, Seth for reminding me to provide more training wheels and fewer unicycle moments.
Heeding the wisdom of Anne Ruggles Gere who once said, “I propose that we listen to the signals that come through the walls of our classrooms from the outside”, I have been adding many people in the last nine months to my personal learning network who are not educators or librarians but who are innovative thinkers regarding business, social media, and cultural trends. While working on another project today, I revisited one of these voices, Seth Godin, and his post, “Pivots for Change”. Godin prefaces his points by beginning with this sage observation:
When industry norms start to die, people panic. It’s difficult to change when you think that you must change everything in order to succeed. Changing everything is too difficult.
I immediately began thinking about how these statements apply to libraries, particularly school libraries. We are in the midst of a sea-change in which we as school librarians and our “brand” are “… in serious need of redefinition” (Joyce Valenza, July 2009). How do we go about reinventing our brand and our role in today’s schools? Godin suggests that we pick some selected “pivot points for change” rather than trying to redo all aspects of our practice and programs at once.
Here is Godin’s original list of “pivot points for change”:
- Keep the machines in your factory, but change what they make.
- Keep your customers, but change what you sell to them.
- Keep your providers, but change the profit structure.
- Keep your industry but change where the money comes from.
- Keep your staff, but change what you do.
- Keep your mission, but change your scale.
- Keep your products, but change the way you market them.
- Keep your customers, but change how much you sell each one.
- Keep your technology, but use it to do something else.
- Keep your reputation, but apply it to a different industry or problem.
So what might these “pivot points of change” look like in a school library? Here are some examples I’ve brainstormed this evening:
- Keep books and print materials in your library, but add and promote the formats in which their content appear (i.e. audio books, databases, e-books, downloadable books (such as NetLibrary), free online versions of periodicals).
- Keep teaching evaluation of online resources, but teach students (and teachers) to apply those same principles of information evaluation to traditional sources of information—they are not immune from bias or inaccurate information, either.
- Keep your traditional sources of authoritative information, but let the research topic and mode of research guide the integration of social media information sources and tools for delivering that content.
- Keep teaching information literacy skills, but focus on the bigger picture of helping students devise personal learning networks that they can apply to any learning situation instead of a topic specific research task.
- Keep teaching students Internet safety principles, but also shift your focus on the concept of digital footprints and teaching students how to create and maintain a positive online identity.
- Continue creating a warm and welcoming physical library environment, but give equal attention to developing a virtual library presence that is accessible to students via 24/7 with elements such as a virtual learning commons or online classroom through a platform like Elluminate.
- Keep teaching quality resources like NoodleTools for managing and citing information, but teach additional tools for this student toolbox by using tools like Zotero.
- Keep school rules in mind, but explore ways to tap into the power of devices like cell phones and iPods for student learning and present a plan for using these tools to your administrator so that you can provide service where your students are.
- Keep writing a vision statement and annual PDEP (Program Design and Evaluation Plan), but compose it in a different format, such as a mindmap format, video, or other multimedia/visualization medium.
- Keep positing literacy as a primary focal point of your library program, but expand that definition of literacy to include new media literacy and information literacy as mainstream literacies equal in importance to traditional literacy.
- Keep adding Web 2.0 tools for information delivery and access, but market your library in places where your parents may be more so than students (such as Twitter or Facebook) to share news about your library program and to network with your parent community.
What other pivot points of change do you see for school libraries? Please add your suggestions here!
Check out this post from Seth Godin’s blog, and imagine what might happen if we applied this strategy to library advocacy. Imagine conducting video interviews with your student patrons about a particular challenge, such as access to Web 2.0 tools or the need for additional lounge furniture.
Invest an hour and suddenly, it’s not you who’s talking, asking, complaining or being ignorant. It’s your customers.
It doesn’t get any more powerful than that!