Design For Librarian Educators

The designers at IDEO will tell you that they have no real expertise for most of the projects on which they work. Rather, they emphasize that they are experts at the design process – the IDEO method of design thinking. And I know that IDEO has designed hundreds of different products across industries and helped service organizations, such as hospitals, to improve their customer service. But I just discovered that IDEO is also working in the education industry as well, teaming up with school districts to pioneer “a special investigative-learning curriculum” to help students become “seekers of knowledge”.

I learned this from an article I came across in the publication Metropolis, in which Sandy Speicher, who heads IDEO’s Design for Learning initiative, is interviewed. In this article Speicher offers “IDEO’s Ten Tips for Creating a 21st-Century Classroom Experience”. Here are Speicher’s ten tips along with my thoughts on how they can help a librarian educator:

1. Pull, don’t push – It’s not about spoon feeding the knowledge into their brains; create an environment that gets your students asking questions that lead to self-discovery.

2. Create from relevance – put the learning into the context of what’s relevant to them; that’s why designing research skill building into assignments is critical.

3. Stop calling them soft skills – good research requires creativity, collaboration and other so-called soft skills; they’re a necessity for 21st century learners.

4. Allow for variation – everyone learns differently and at different speeds; incorporate that into what happens in the instruction session.

5. No more sage onstage – to deliver authentic practice and build experience you have to step away from the lectern; let them do the work while you guide.

6. Librarians are designers – give librarians space to create a learning environment that suits their teaching style; allow them to design the learning experience.

7. Build learning communities – what happens in the classroom requires participation from the administration and faculty; librarians and other learning support professionals need to create the community.

8. Be an anthropologist, not an archaeologist – don’t study the past; study the people to understand their needs. Pay attention to connecting with them rather than digging through the data.

9. Incubate the future – It’s not about finding the right answers; it’s about learning to be ambitious, able to solve problems and taking responsibility for learning.

10. Change the discourse – You can’t measure creativity and collaboration on charts; we need to create new assessment to track the building of 21st-century research skills.

Keep in mind that these were written with K-12 classroom instructors in mind. But there are still some useful ideas here to help librarians develop better practices for designing a classroom experience.

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