How can school media personnel facilitate students’ personal growth and the development of lifelong learning through the incorporation of technologies in the media center?
Classroom learning is great. No really. It has its uses in teaching students en masse various skills and information they need to function in society. The incorporation of various technology (computers, tablets, etc.) into the traditional classroom adds yet another dimension to the learning.
Traditional classrooms can only do so much. They can teach information (history, geography, science, and others) and skills (reading, writing, mathematics, scientific methodology, and study skills). But class size, rigid standards of what must be taught, and crunched time limit even the best teachers as they encourage their students to learn. What about the student who wants to know more about X, but is too shy to ask in front of the class? Or the student whose reading level is ahead (or behind) the rest of the class, and is bored (or frustrated) with the assigned readings?
In steps the media center. The key word being media. This is where traditional classroom learning meets the world.
The most immediately distinguishable learning source in the media center is, of course, the book collection. From nonfiction to fiction, picture books to reference books, and everything else in between, books are key learning sites. The nonfiction books and reference books are obvious– to find out more about snakes, check out a snake book. Fiction and picture books are less obvious. After all, they’re just “make-believe,” right? Wrong. For this reader at least, historical fiction taught me a great deal more about European (or American, or whatever other areas historical fiction covers) than the history textbooks. And the beauty of it was that, as a child, I had no idea I was “learning” about Victorian England. I thought I was just having fun.
Learning moves (or should move) beyond “information” though, and “made up” books are sites of such learning. Fiction teaches us about ourselves and others. Telling a child to stop teasing his friend because “it hurts his feelings” lacks the power of a story telling what happened to the hurt friend because of the teasing. The idea that WWII devastated Germany “too” (and not just Britain or the surrounding countries) comes alive in The Book Thief as readers follow Liesel’s journey from a reasonably happy foster-child to utter devastation. This isn’t “fact-finding.” This is something deeper, much harder to define, and it’s a kind of learning that extends beyond standardized tests into our interaction with other people.
But I did point out the term media for a reason. Although books are (arguably) one type of technology, there are others, and the media center is a repository for those as well. Computer stations in the library can do a lot more than just look up books. They can provide learning programs like Quest Atlantis that foster critical thinking and problem-solving. Media center specialists/coordinators can also use computers to augment traditional classroom learning (for instance, if students are learning about maps in their classroom, demonstrate Google Maps and allow students to explore it on media center computers). The media center can also guide students in learning how to research topics using computers– where to go for information, how to tell if information is legitimate, etc.
All of the above hinges on one particular point: learning should not be confined to the traditional classroom. Memorizing information or the steps to get a result are a part of learning (it’s hard to analyze why WWII happened if one does not know the events leading up to it), but memorization is not the end of learning. To really prepare students for their emergence into the “real world,” students need to be able to teach themselves, whether that involves gathering information or analyzing it. The media center, by providing resources and the time to learn to utilize them, can guide students in learning how to learn.
Finally, the media center has more freedom for student direction. Students can choose which topics to pursue, and they can pursue them at their own pace. For a student who feels left behind (or is chafing to move ahead), the media center can provide an environment where learning is less frustrating, and more “fun,” and therefore something students will want to continue outside of the school environment.
The genesis of this question actually occurred in an Educational Psychology class during my undergraduate. Although our textbook (listed below because the ideas on computer use that I discussed came largely from it) focused on “traditional” classrooms, my professor encouraged applying its principles and ideas to whatever field of study we intended to follow. Although that class and textbook suggested some “answers” for my essential question, it certainly wasn’t a “complete” answer, and I look forward to further exploring it.
Snowman, Jack, Rick McCown, and Robert Biehler. Psychology Applied to Teaching. 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.