Immersion as learning: collaborating on the learning journey Print E-mail
By Camilla Elliott   

Successful learning

Focusing on student engagement and converting this into learning can have a significant impact on student outcomes. Evaluation of the Australian students on completion of the project indicated that they valued the experience of communicating with the American students; they enjoyed the opportunity to learn about another culture and working with the web 2.0 learning platforms. In end of year appraisals, Diane Peter’s class of American students overwhelmingly reported this project as the highlight of their learning during the school year.
 
While access to technology was vital to this project, the most important ingredient was the ‘will to succeed’. This type of learning can be chaotic and teachers must be encouraged to see beyond the associated disruption. Flexibility is essential. Leading educational consultant Gary Stager (2009) recently stated that the two key traits for teaching and learning in a digital world are collaborative problem-solving and the creative utilisation of existing technology. I agree.

Impact on the school library service

The revolution in learning involving collaborative projects and similar online interactive, participatory experiences has a significant impact on the vision of a school library service of the future. The curriculum is changing with the realisation that Internet access has made it less important for students to know, memorise or recall information. Cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch (2009) explains that easy access to information means students “need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able”. [Furthermore] “if we work with students to find and address problems that are real and significant to them, they can then leverage the networked information environment in ways that will help them achieve the ‘knowledge-ability’ we hope for them” (Wesch, 2009). The role of the library has changed from that of knowledge gate-keeper to enabler. Well-trained tibrary staff can play an integral role in supporting classroom teachers to ensure that students benefit from this transition.
 
To succeed, students rely upon the wisdom and guidance of the professionals in their local learning network. As our collaborative project revealed, every individual in the classroom is a learner in this Knowledge Era. Chris Lehmann (2009) of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia emphasises that in many respects teachers today are more important than ever, but their role has changed. Overwhelming teachers and the library staff who support them must be:
  • Innovative with a willingness to change;
  • Inquisitive with a respect for new learning;
  • Wise enough to assist students to make sense of their ever-changing world.
To conclude, New Zealander Professor John Hattie (2007) speaks of the importance of relevance in relation to student learning and assessment. To successfully achieve a learning goal, he insists that a student must be able to ask the following questions: ‘Where am I going? How am I going? Where am I going next?’, adding that the definition of a clear learning pathway is essential for learning to occur. Interacting in a global learning environment with digital technologies proved to be exceptionally relevant to our Year 8 students. It was an active learning environment and, from inception, was enabled and sustained through the resources of our Personal Learning Networks. The goal was clear and success in achieving it has opened up new learning horizons. Be it physical or virtual conference attendance, or membership of a social learning group, opportunities for learning are diverse and clear goals in establishing a relevant Personal Learning Network are critical elements for success. 

References

Flat Classroom Project, Accessed 20 August 2009 at: http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/.
 
Garet, M.S. et al (1999) ‘Designing Effective Professional Development: Lessons from the Eisenhower Program’, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, Accessed 20 March 2008 at www.ed.gov/inits/teachers/eisenhower/designlessons.pdf.
 
Hattie, John (2009) ‘Leading the Way for Individual Pathways’, Accessed 16 August 2009 at: www.qsa.qld.edu.au/downloads/learning/pd_con_ss09_callum.ppt.
 
Lehmann, Chris (2009) ‘Practical Theory Weblog’ Accessed 12 August 2009 at http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/2009/08.html.
 
‘Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians’ (2009) Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, Canberra, ACT.
 
Ozlinks, Accessed 28 July 2009 at: http://ozlinks.wikispaces.com/.
 
Stager, Gary (2009) ‘Twitter/jzagami/Gary Stager’ Accessed 8 September 2009 at: http://twitter.com/jzagami/status/3834117059.
 
Voicethread, Accessed 28 July 2009 at: http://www.voicethread.com.
 
Waters, Sue (2009) ‘Sue Waters Blog: connecting at NECC’, Accessed 22 July 2009 at: http://suewaters.com/2009/07/10/connecting-at-necc/.
 
Wesch, Michael (2009) ‘From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments’, Accessed 28 July 2009 at: http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/knowledgable-knowledge-able.
 
Whitby, Gregory B (2007) ‘Pedagogies for the 21st Century: Having the Courage to See Freshly.’ ACEL 2007 International Conference, Sydney.
 
Camilla Elliott is Head of Library and Information Services at Mount Lilydale Mercy College.
Twitter: edubeacon