Opening up ‘The World is Open’

Curtis Bonk’s book, The World is Open in print or for your Kindle takes Friedman’s ideas in the World is Flat and transposes them into a theory of learning that is inspiring, to say the least.  Bonk explores a number of emerging concepts in education and applies them to a scenerio of lifelong learning…and in doing so, speaks to the heart of what libraries are all about. Consider some the the key ideas he lays out in light of the existing and developing role and function of libraries in our schools and in society:

  • Professional educators will serve as “e-mentors” or “e-coaches,” their expertise focused more on helping learners to navigate the multiple pathways available to them via technology, rather than on subject area content.  The number of teachers will actually increase, rather than decrease, as more 1-to-1 support is demanded.  Pay structures will alter significantly.  As library professionals, we stand at the forefront of this movement, already trained to facilitate the individual learner through reader advisory, broad-application research skills and technology integration.
  • Formalized learning will last longer, but be a less structured experience. Learners will self-determine and customize the  learning experience, making  it more exciting and more relevant to the individual learner.  Learners will have access to information from anywhere, anytime via mobile devices.  They will be connected to and collaborate with others across disciplines, across classrooms, across schools, and across cultures.  Learning spaces will become less contained and more free (both intellectually and economically). This will lead to a greater openness between people.Libraries, of course, have represented this type of “life-long” learning since before formal universities first emerged.  In this new world of learning, libraries should not only maintain, but magnify their role as “idea labs,” where learners meet, discuss, collaborate and customize their knowledge, both physically and virtually.
  • Authentic learning experiences will emerge in the form of simulation, gaming, virtual worlds, and real-time activities. These “super blends” of learning, which mix learning content and learning contexts via technology will make categorization of media, delivery platforms, and even subjects less likely. This is where a challenge lies for many library professionals.  Trained to categorize and standardize, we must seek new paradigms by which to recognize, organize and access information that are in keeping with the blended nature of today’s emerging media.

Take time to familiarize yourselves with Bonk’s ideas.  They offer us insight into the roles we will continue to play in a learning society.  You can listen to an interview with Bonk on the podcast Mission to Learn (Episode 5) and follow Bonk’s Blog at

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