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On the Horizon for K12 (and for libraries!)

As we close one year and begin to think about what’s on the horizon for 2014/15, consider a peek at the recently released draft of the NMC Horizon Report 2014 for K-12 education.

This sixth edition of the annual,

internationally recognized NMC Horizon Report series and regional NMC Technology Outlooks are part of the NMC Horizon Project, a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes key trends, significant challenges, and emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. 

Note: The word library and the word librarian do not appear in any meaningful way in this 53-page document, but the implications should be clear to us.  The trends reveal so many sweet spots for teacher librarian leadership.

These trends should inform K12 library practice and the ways in which we partner with classroom teachers.  In many cases we will already recognize them as part of our current practice.

Here are highlights for the six trends from fast to mid-range to long-term.

Fast trend: Rethinking the role of teachers:

The integration of technology into everyday life is causing many educational thought leaders to argue that schools should be providing ways for students to continue to engage in learning activities, formal and informal, beyond the traditional school day. As this trend gathers steam, many schools across the world are rethinking the primary responsibilities of teachers. Related to these evolving expectations are changes in the ways teachers engage in their own continuing professional development, much of which involves social media and online tools and resources.

For teacher librarians: In what ways are we building and leveraging our PLNs for growth and how are we using them as models?  Are we truly using our powers to network our libraries and classrooms?  Are we connecting the learners we know so well with informal opportunities that match their interests and passions?  Are we modeling new potential in the professional development we share?

Fast trend: Shift to deeper learning approaches:

Project-based learning, problem-based learning, inquiry-based learning, challenge-based learning, and similar methods foster more active learning experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. As technologies such as tablets and smartphones are more readily accepted in schools, educators are leveraging these tools, which students already use, to connect the curriculum with real life applications. These active learning approaches are decidedly more student-centered, allowing learners to take control of how they engage with a subject and to brainstorm and implement solutions to pressing local and global problems. The hope is that if learners can connect the course material with their own lives and their surrounding communities, then they will become more excited to learn and immerse themselves in the subject matter.

For teacher librarians: This is a no-brainer, but it is serious recognition of what we’ve been about forever.  It is a recognition of what the research has always told us about sticky learning. Our libraries must be learner centered and we can work with students and teachers to inspire and initiate projects that are authentic and meaningful on both local and global levels.

Mid-range trend: Increasing the focus on open educational resources

Open content uses Creative Commons and other forms of alternative licensing to encourage not only the sharing of information, but the sharing of pedagogies and experiences as well. The goal is that OER materials are freely copiable, freely remixable, and free of barriers to access, cultural sensitivities, sharing, and educational use.

For teacher librarians: Are we modeling use of OER in our collaborative teaching? Are we making these resources easily discoverable to teachers and learners through our curation efforts? Are we modeling strategies for ethically and creatively remixing instruction and presentation?

Mid-range trend: Increasing use of hybrid learning designs

As teachers and students alike become more familiar with and adept at using the Internet, classroom-based learning increasingly includes online learning components, hybrid learning strategies, and an increased focus on collaboration within and outside the classroom. Schools that are making use of hybrid learning models are finding that using both the physical and the virtual learning environments to their highest potentials allows teachers to further personalize the learning experience, engage students in a broader variety of ways, and even extend the learning day. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented effectively, enable students to use the school day for group work and project-based activities, while using the network to access readings, videos, and other learning materials on their own time, leveraging the best of both environments.

For teacher librarians: So many of our colleagues are leading the way in embedded, flipped and networked learning spaces.  We have always curated.  It is now possible for us to curate learning playlists and to design truly collaborative online inquiry activities. We should now be modeling curation for students and teaching about the creation of personal learning environments and online networked learning environments.  Are we discovering and implementing strategies for networking and guiding the inquiry process?  Are we sharing our students’ thought and work?

Long-range trend: Rapid acceleration of intuitive technology

Thanks to touchscreens and other natural user interfaces, today’s students do not have to be technical experts to personalize their devices, manipulate content, and communicate and collaborate with others. It is already common to interact with devices entirely by using natural movements and gestures.

For teacher librarians: Don’t we want a presence on these devices?  Shouldn’t library and library resources be in our learners’ pockets and on their personal tablets?  When they interact, don’t you want to be there?

Long-range trend: Rethinking how schools work

There is a focused movement to reinvent the traditional classroom paradigm and rearrange the entire school experience — a trend that is largely being driven by the influence of innovative learning approaches. Methods such as project- and challenge-based learning call for school structures that enable students to move from one learning activity to another more organically, removing the limitations of the traditional bell schedule. These novel arrangements encourage renovation of classroom layouts with the express focus of facilitating group interaction. Century-old practices in which students learn subject by subject while uniformly facing the front of the classroom are perceived by many as an antiquated approach to teaching and learning. The multidisciplinary nature of project-based learning and other contemporary approaches has brought attention to innovative designs of the school atmosphere that link each class and subject matter to one another. As learning becomes more fluid and student-centered, some teachers and administrators believe that schedules should be more flexible to allow opportunities for authentic learning to take place and ample room for independent study.

For teacher librarians: Isn’t the learning commons model completely in tune with this type of learning?  Haven’t our spaces always supported independent, multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities?  How might we emphasize these capacities?

The NMC Horizon EdTech Weekly App includes the full report in the series as well as curated, relevant, and timely edtech projects and news to your iPad or iPhone every weekend.

The Horizon report is produced by the NMC in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and made possible via the support of HP.


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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