The Aspen Institute Taskforce for Learning on the Internet recently released the report Learner at the Center of a Networked World. At 116 pages, the report is quite comprehensive. Since there is far too much information for one blog post, I am going to break this into a series.

The report calls for a change from the 18th and 19th century model of education:

[O]ur traditional system of education is rooted in a model first developed in the Industrial Age. It assumes that knowledge is transferred from an external source—teachers, books and schools—to a student. Students are grouped by age, and progress is often based on the amount of time they spend in class and not on how much they have learned. In most instances, any learning that takes place outside class does not count for credit, nor is it even formally recognized.


This long-held model is struggling to engage a new generation of students for whom learning is happening all the time—online, off-line, in classrooms, as well as after school, in libraries and at museums. The connected learner can access tutorials, lessons and entire courses online while participating in afterschool programs such as code academies and maker labs. (pg. 26)

This new model emphasizes that learning takes place everywhere, not just at school.’ The report advocates that “learners need to be at the center of new learning networks.” (pg.41) Libraries and librarians can play an important role in this model. We can:

  • Provide free access to different kinds of technology. Students should have an opportunity to play with and learn from different devices and computer programs. Think about setting up an in-house lending program for laptops, flip cams and tablets. Try installing Minecraft on a few computers and buying some Mojang accounts for students to share.


  • Understand the role of play in learning. While it might look like teens are goofing off while watching YouTube videos, think about what those videos or games could inspire. On YouTube, teens can learn how to cook, how to tie a tie, how to sew, and more. John and Hank Green’s Crash Course videos give fun, basic lessons in literature, history, and science. Even funny cat videos may inspire students to learn how to shoot and edit movies.
  • Observe teens and their passions. If teens in your library seem to be watching a lot of videos, how about offering an iMovie workshop? If students are gaming, think about doing a Scratch program. Are teens excited about 3D printers? How about a Blender or SketchUp workshop?
  • Create programs and opportunities for self-guided learning. Think of yourself more as a guide and less as a librarian or teacher. Think about programs such as UnMaking or MaKey MaKey, where students can tinker and learn at their own pace. Or, simply have a station where students can tinker and craft on their own instead of holding a formal program.

Coming up… Pt. 2: Social and Emotional Learning

About Jaina Lewis

Teen Services Librarian at The Westport Library in Westport, CT since 2006. Minnesotan at heart. Current chair of Teen Tech Week. @jainalibrarian

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