Using versus having

“They say knowledge is power.  We say the use of knowledge is power.”
Elliot Washor  in The Big Picture by Dennis Littkey

As a group of us have been meeting at our campus to form a professional learning community, we’ve been talking quite a bit about the notion of students as a pail having information “poured” into them, versus the notion of students actively constructing knowledge.

I think to librarians, this idea comes fairly naturally.   We know that we can’t “know” everything, but that the source of our power comes in knowing how to help students find information themselves, by ferreting out the knowledge they already have within them.   Finding the information sometimes becomes more of a collaboration, and that is ultimately the goal, for students to know how to drawn on the knowledge they have to make new connections and find more information.

It’s fascinating the different expectations with which students(and teachers) approach asking questions or receiving help.  Some students expect to be a partner in finding things, and will ask a question and then work with you to figure it out.  Other students are much more passive, and ask a question, but then follow you, while chatting with other students along the way, and not really paying much attention.   Some students will take charge once they get to a set of sites or to the bookshelves–once they’ve been pointed in the right direction they are ready to take charge and winnow through what is there and select what works for them.  Each encounter is different and part of the skill set a librarian has to have is being able to facilitate with many different kinds of learners.

In The Big Picture, Littkey points out that learning is very personal.  He also posits that the “real learning happens after” the encounter.  “It’s what you do with it, how you integrate it, how you talk to your family, friends, and classmates about it” that constitutes the learning process.

Once again, I’m led to wonder if we give students enough time for that “learning after” process.  I believe that we learn as things go on the “back burner” and we process them in the background, but in the rush for “new” lessons each day, do we allow enough room for reflection?

Similarly, in library-research related encounters, are students expected to complete something at the end of the period or the next day–or are they given a few days to let the concepts go on their “back burner” while they process it, talk about it, and share it-even if they are doing something else within the classroom?

Littkey asks some very pertinent questions at the end of the first chapter:

“How do you learn best?  How would you go about teaching your ‘own capacity to learn?’

What do you look like and feel like when you are really learning?”

It’s pertinent to understand that for ourselves so that we can apply it better in our own work with students.  If we really “get” that using the knowledge is where the key is, rather than having the knowledge, then how would we approach our teaching differently?

3 thoughts on “Using versus having

  1. I love the analogy of having to process the information we accumulate on the “back burner”! Far too often in American education we rush students through a topic without giving them that process time or helping them to use it constructively.

  2. Carolyn,

    A teacher in one of my workshops last year described her “learning later” as the “drive-home effect,” as she would always have great discussions in her head about her graduate school classes. What was lacking, she claimed, was the ability to take those thoughts and act upon them in some kind of environment that would further them. For us, that environment is now this; for our students, what do we provide? What experiences do we offer for them to take advantage of that “drive-home effect?”

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