Students and their teachers are engaged in lifelong processes of learning, and the important issue for each person is how to maximize conscious control of the processes, how to learn to direct one's own education. Librarians have a unique vantage point on lifelong learning, since they are called upon daily to stretch what they know. We have in addition a central role in assisting others to find what they seek, and to manage what they find. A librarian has many opportunities to teach, in formal and informal settings, and can also contribute to organizing knowledge access for students who may never be seen face to face. New electronic tools accelerate the pace of change and enlarge the public, but do not fundamentally change the mandate and the challenge: to help people continue to educate themselves.
An extended example of a specific application (Biology 182) is available.
I summarize my own philosophy of education as a set of labels, aphorisms and diagrammatic characterizations, each of which expands into a longer narrative. Taken together they provide some definition for what I do and hope to do. The most appropriate medium for presentation is as hypertext, with the inherent possibility of branching to greater detail and then returning to a synoptic view.
I encountered this phrase in the 1960s, as the epigraph (and indeed the reason for being) of the Whole Earth Catalog. The central notion is that knowledge of the existence of tools is the first step to learning to use them; and learning to use tools is a personal matter of practise and learned discipline, whether the tools are steel, or software, or ideas.
A term coined by mathematician and science fiction writer Rudy Rucker, to round out the vision of the symbiosis of man and machine: the hardware of mechanical and electronic tools is increasingly under the control of software in the form of instruction sets; but the human element which creates and directs hardware and software resides in the complexity of brain cells --wetware-- for which individuals must learn to take personal responsibility.
In the mid-1980s I attended a series of workshops at the Institute for Writing and Thinking of Bard College, and became involved with writing across the curriculum. I experimented with writing as a classroom teaching tool, but I think the most important results came from my attempts to integrate writing into my own research, class preparation, and day-to-day activities. From this emerged the conviction that reading, writing, and thinking should be connected and mutually reinforcing activities, essential to daily life. I continue to evolve personal ways to realize this ideal.
I can't remember where I first encountered the formula, but [in a slightly altered form] it says:Data are not Information;By what transformations do data become information, and does information become knowledge?
Information is not Knowledge;
Knowledge is not Wisdom.
Inspirations and insights often arrive unbidden, as a result of what may seem happy accident, or the juxtapositions of chance. Such opportunities surely favor the prepared mind, but the seeker who keeps a weather eye peeled at all times is especially likely to find rewards.
Everything is connected to everything. The desire to 'know everything' is certainly less prudent than to know one's limits, but rampant curiosity makes opportunities for serendipitous encounters. The challenge is to know what to do with the bits that don't fit, that have no compartments in the Memory Palace.
The more common mode is to teach by exhortation, but it's difficult to raise this desideratum above the level of the platitude and cliché. One wants to communicate how to be a learner by doing it.
What librarianship has given me in the last 6 years is the scope and the means to actually do a new sort of teaching. Looking forward to the next decade, I expect to center my activities on refashioning the Science Library into an effective tool for the creative study of the various sciences. The physical setting of spaces, shelves, work surfaces and computers is just the matrix. What we do to animate the matrix is the important thing, and that rests on the outreach of the Library into classrooms, labs, residences, and the processes of information use that support teaching and research activities.
My work with the World Wide Web is the foundation for much of this animation, in that hypertext provides the presentation and distribution medium that eluded me as a classroom teacher. I wish to learn new skills which will apply to the various projects I work on; I want to use what I learn to help undergraduate learners make the leaps they need to learn to make --to prepare them to cope effectively with the range and wealth of information resources they will encounter and need to gain control over. This is a grand teaching challenge, one that I approach by learning myself, by trying to work with the new tools that build the tools of the future.