Teens and the Networked World: Aspen Institute Task Force Report Recap

In September 2014, YALSA blogger Jaina Lewis began a series on the Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet 2014 report entitled Learner at the Center of a Networked World. Lewis’ post focused on 24/7 learning and how libraries and librarians can help keep the learning going outside the walls of school.

As Lewis says, the report is comprehensive, clocking in at 116 pages. This report is full of excellent resources and websites to explore. The Aspen Institute feels that our youth today need to be fully connected. In order to do that, we need to rethink our current models of education and technology infrastructure so that we create an environment of connected learning.

I particularly liked the definition of connected learning the report gave saying that “connected learning…is socially embedded, interest driven and oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity” (34). In this definition, not only are we making sure the learner is at the center, but we are also taking into account the various things that surround our learners. In order to prepare youth for being smart, savvy, and critical citizens in our digital age, we have to remember the influences, histories, and cultural values that shape our youth.

As I read through the report, I was most drawn to the section on cultivating literacy skills. While the infrastructure is important, I believe in using technology as a tool and that people come before the tech. Not only do we want our youth to be both consumers and producers of media, but we also want to make sure they are critical thinkers and that these skills stay with them throughout their entire life. Of course, then the question becomes, how do we as libraries help to cultivate these attitudes? And do we as libraries have those critical thinking skills to make sure good consumers and producers of media and users of technology? Because while the report is about the learner, the youth, they look to us for guidance and support. We also have to feel empowered and confident about using technology to help us do “projects that matter” (connected learning that is interest driven). When we invest in using technology as a tool, we share a purpose with the youth we work with even though they are not our peers.

The report talks about youth being in a “whitewater learning” environment (27). This means that they acquire skills and learn new knowledge in the middle of practicing these skills as the technology environment changes around them. This is a type of learning we as librarians can also take. We can dive in, helping to create new knowledge to share with other librarians and expand our learning network. I believe by doing this, we give ourselves the agency we need to help the youth to our best ability.

This is a report that I will continue to mull over. My first read got me thinking about my role as a librarian in helping ensure our learners are at the center of their network. I hope in a future reading, my focus shifts and I can expand on this initial blog post. If you have a chance to skim the report, I recommend it; just seeing the various ways in which institutions across the United States in helping create exciting environments that use technology as a tool was exciting. The report gives you a lot to think about and I think this will continue to be a report we look at in 2015!

About Hailley Fargo

Hi, I'm a new professional working as the Student Engagement Librarian at Penn State University, University Park campus. As someone who provides reference to undergraduate students and teach information literacy to primarily freshman, I'm curious about the intersections of the work of YALSA and academic libraries (and how we can collaborate and work together to help our teens). In my spare time, I like to bike, read memoirs, watch TV shows, and consider myself an oatmeal connoisseur.
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One Comment

  1. Thanks, Hailley. Appreciate the attention to this report which emanated from a lot of research, outreach and deliberations among the Task Force. As a librarian, you might be interested in another report our same Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program produced on the future of public libraries, http://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/Dialogue-on-Public-Libraries/2014/report

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