I had the pleasure of being invited to attend and participate in the Hechinger Institute’s  Digital Media, Teaching, Children and Schools conference in Chicago at the beginning of November.  I was also thrilled to present and tell the story of how digital media is helping our students to write the story of learning and libraries at The Unquiet Library (see above presentation slidedeck).  Over the course of two days, we explored the implications of digital media for teaching and learning as well exploring the possibilities of narratives and stories happening in education for journalists to explore and tell.   Key themes, questions, and ideas that resonated with me included:

  • How do we use digital media to enable transformative learning experiences?
  • How does digital media learner participation and production of content?
  • How does digital media impact the distribution and sharing of information and ideas, and how does digital media shape the role of learning networks?
  • How are the roles of teachers changing in this educational landscape (for better or worse)?
  • What evidence do we have of learning and how do we stop being “data poor” in education? (standardized testing is not quality data)
  • How do we help create a mindset and culture that sees education not as the end but as the beginning of a productive life?
  • Are educational administrators and policy makers aware that skills needed for the work world are antithetical to the ones that are being privileged in our test-driven school culture?
  • How do we create a common language of teaching and learning in learning communities?  How do we as schools–faculty, students, parents, admin–build a language of learning so that we are not wasting time and energy?
  • How are we addressing the school policies and practices that privilege narrow perspectives?
  • How do we shift conversations about learning away from training to enabling participation?

I relished the opportunity to interact with journalists from across the country and to listen and learn from a diverse group of amazing thinkers, scholars, and practitioners.  Speakers who especially pushed my thinking included Cathy Davidson of Duke University, Katie Salen from the Institute of Play, James Gee of Arizona State University, Akili Lee of the Digital Youth Network, and James Tracy of the Cushing Academy.

The conference ended with a trip to the critically acclaimed YOUMedia Lab I enjoyed seeing teens enjoying the learning space and love their concept of “mentors” who help cultivate student passions and expertise (think Henry Jenkins and his conceptualization of sites of participatory culture).   Whether students are coming to the library to play games, check out a book (they have a great contemporary collection of YA lit) or magazine, gather for a formal or informal learning activity, create multimedia products, or just hang out with peers, YOUMedia Lab struck me as being passion driven.   I felt right at home in this library that was teeming with conversation, laughter, and learning.

Thank you to the entire staff at the Hechinger Institute who made this rich learning experience possible and for helping me to further dwell in questions already weighing on my mind and finding new ones to explore that are relevant to learning and libraries.