As students across the country began heading back to classrooms, a couple hundred library leaders participated in one of this summer’s Future Ready Library Summits. The guiding principle driving the agenda of this professional development opportunity for librarians was simple: students–or rather, student-centered learning.
During the Summit, we reflected on the fact that in some cases, the students who will be returning to the classroom haven’t been in a formal school setting in a year and a half. They are returning to the classroom, changed in many ways. First graders may be walking into school having spent kindergarten on Zoom. Freshmen may be entering high school after spending eighth grade being home schooled by a parent.
As every librarian in the virtual audience was challenged to be empathetic to the challenges the return to school may bring for some students, each was also encouraged to acknowledge the progress the pandemic forced upon us. Today, students readily access digital resources. They understand the norms associated with virtual group discussion. Teachers are more comfortable delivering differentiated instruction through multiple channels. After a year and a half of turmoil, we’ve made progress that should be celebrated.
After the Summit, I spoke with two education thought leaders and library advocates, Mark Ray, previously of Vancouver Public Schools, and Shannon McClintock Miller of Van Meter Community School in Iowa. Ray and Miller hosted and participated in the Summit, so I asked them to share their thoughts and takeaways, knowing that educators everywhere could benefit from the adult and student speakers as well as the group discussions.
Both Ray and Miller agreed the pandemic has created a unique opportunity to further empower students as creators. Ray, a staunch advocate of giving students a voice, said, “Since the idea of students as creators is already part of the Future Ready Librarians Framework, it validated both the framework itself and confirmed that student creation and creativity are key to a student-centered learning environment.”