Workshop Idea: Libraries as Learning Spaces – Maybe?

photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc
photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc

I’m working on some new workshops and the idea of public libraries as learning spaces is a topic that keeps running through my head. Obviously public libraries have always been learning spaces, so that in itself isn’t a new idea. But a workshop on creating learning opportunities using technology as the delivery device is what I’m pondering.

In the past year or so there have been some intriguing examples of libraries expanding learning opportunities for their communities to include locally created training delivered online and in-person, distance learning through commercial and open courses,  and more.  Many of these are taking advantage of the expertise of local community members and experts world-wide. Some programs and ideas that triggered this workshop idea include:

  • Library YOU - Escondido CA Public Library is gathering all sorts of local knowledge from community members and sharing it online via podcasts and video. Some items are focused on learning a new skill, others are personal histories and memories.
  • NYLTO New Library Trustees Online - Moodle based learning modules for trustees created by a group of public library systems in NY and coordinated by the Southern Adirondack Library System.
  • CLASS – Community Learning and Skill Sharing -  Salina KS Public Library is offering lots of classes taught by community members. Very much like evening classes at local high schools, but not restricted to evenings.
  • 23 Things types of programs offered for parents, students, community members: Darien CT PL, Newfield NY PL
  • Libraries increasingly offering access to commercial training services like Mango Languages, and Cengage’s ed2go
  • The huge growth of MOOCs (massive online open courses) and other free and open online courses like CodeAcademy.  Obviously libraries can make information about these programs more visible.  But more useful might be to find particular courses that have wide appeal and try to form in-person study/discussion groups around a course. This could help people remain motivated and provide a natural group for any course that requires team projects.
  • Formal and informal events around Ted Talks. Like the Princeton PL TedX events and Fredonia’s Fred Talks
  • And a gazillion more…..

With so many ideas churning, my challenge is to come up with a coherent, practical, do-able workshop with wide appeal.  So in an effort to force myself to get some ideas written down (AND TO ASK FOR INPUT AND IDEAS) here’s my thinking out loud brainstorming of what tools/topics to cover:

  • Review of examples like the ones above.
  • Learning curation tools: Learnist, EdCanvas, MentorMob
    • to create step-by-step learning paths for topics, taking advantage of resources on the web and custom created content
  • Screencasting tools: Screenr, Jing, Screencastomatic
    • to create narrated screencasts for tech topics
  • Presentation tools like to post narrated slide decks.
    • If you already have a presenter doing a slideshow-based talk in the library, why not ask if they’ll do a shorter version of it to post online.
  • Video?? Perhaps the simplest tech to use, but the hardest to do well?
  • MOOCs: A look at them and how they work. Discussion of how libraries might use them to create in-person study groups. (This sounds like the ‘flipped classroom’!)
  • Moodle: A look at some moodle based courses and a bit of time playing with a sample course?
  • There’s even a terrific looking WordPress plugin (Sensei from Woo) for creating online lessson & courses.
  • Online learning spaces use tools like MightyBell  and Collaborize Classroom to build spaces where community members can interact and learn together. These spaces are also good places to host other learning content.

Or maybe this is a topic that doesn’t really need a workshop? Maybe the libraries who want to do these kinds of things already know how to do all these things? I know that the bigger libraries that have funding to really run with these ideas in a big way, will have staff that can figure all this out (and do it far better than I could!).

My focus is usually on small to mid-size libraries that don’t have the time, staff or money to take on huge projects. My hope would be that they would feel confident enough after this workshop to jump in and try one small learning project that they could add to their services.

Thoughts? Think this would be interesting? Make sense? Have any great examples to share?

7 thoughts on “Workshop Idea: Libraries as Learning Spaces – Maybe?”

  1. I think you have a few possible workshops here. You could do a speed dating style review of tools, of course. Or you might choose one category of learning tool and discuss/try out the technique end of things more deeply. Video tools, for instance could be a workshop in and of itself, with a lot of discussion of the things that make video particularly challenging. Doing an overview of programs and initiatives already out there in libraries is another good approach, as libraries can get a lot of inspiration from that — maybe be sure to include some examples form outside of libraries, too?

    1. Emily – thanks so much for your valuable input! You’re so right about there being lots of different directions here. I’m thinking of this as a full day workshop, so could probably touch on everything to some extent. Giving people large chunks of time to work on the specific tools that pique their interests. Though, as you said, video is such a huge topic, that could be it’s own workshop. And probably not one that I could teach.

  2. I really like this idea. I agree, you have several workshops here, especially if you’re working with staff from small to mid-size libraries who may not have the technical skills, equipment or understanding. To get started, perhaps an overview of each type of technological skill and what it can accomplish. Then break into sections that speak to each skill/technology.

  3. I would love an overview workshop. I am at a pretty small public library and we are always looking for ways to innovate/use all our space/serve our patrons/justify our existance. A chance to see some of these and play for a few minutes each would be great. I don’t think a whole workshop on any one of them would be as attractive to me. We get little or no PD time or $$, so I’d rather get several ideas I can bring back and play with. For public libraries without the in-house tech. perhaps encourage skilled board members and volunteers – especially teens – to attend.

    1. Annie, good idea there about board members and volunteers. I think I’ve done workshops for SALS where we did that. A great group to tap into to. Maybe I should mention this workshop idea to SALS?

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