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This presentation, with Maurice Coleman and Buffy Hamilton, was prepared for the 2011 American Library Assocation Conference in New Orleans for delivery on Sunday, June 26, 2011; event sponsored by the ALA Learning Round Table (

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  • A brief preface: If anyone wants to participate in an experiment to create another social learning center as part of our presentation today, please include the hashtag #ala11soclearn with your Tweets so we will have the beginnings of a conversation and site online. And if you’re viewing this after the presentation has been given, please join the conversation on Twitter via #ala11soclearn ****************************** In a world where the need for learning never ends, social learning has become a way of life and libraries are poised to be at the center of the process—even though we may not always feel as if we’ve chosen the best means to reach the ends we’re trying to reach.
  • It’s no secret to any of us that instant communication is the order of the day, and it’s pretty difficult to get away from the 24/7 flood of information that technology is bringing to our doorsteps…or our thatched huts. With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions: Are we recognizing that learning is a continual endeavor in our lives and the lives of those we serve, and Are we doing all we can to put our libraries at the center of the learning universe that is a natural part of our traditions, our present, and our not-so-distant future?
  • A few of us—Maurice Coleman, Jill Hurst-Wahl [a Professor of Practice in Syracuse University's School of Information Studies and author of the Digitization 101 blog at], and I—more or less stumbled onto the idea that by revisiting Ray Oldenburg’s wonderful book, The Great Good Place , we might find something to build upon what Oldenburg—and we—have been noticing. Oldenburg wrote, in a pre-World Wide Web environment, of the important places in our lives. He started with home…
  • … continued with work…
  • … and then defined what he called the great good place—that community meeting place where so much of what makes communities great occurs: “cafes, coffee shops, bookstores, bars, hair salons, and other hangouts at the heart of a community.” Almost every social gathering place imaginable. And because it was just before the World Wide Web changed the landscape, those three places were all physical. And, not so surprisingly, they didn’t seem to include libraries—at least not within the book—since we were probably still too busy fighting off ugly stereotypes about taking great good glee in shushing people. .
  • But a lot has changed. Libraries have consistently laid claim to serving as third places in our communities. During a conversation that included Maurice, Jill, me, and a couple of other colleagues during one of Maurice’s T is for Training podcasts less than a year ago, we kicked around the idea that it was time to go a bit beyond what Oldenburg had documented. It was time to define—and lay claim to—a new Fourth Place: social learning centers that combined the social aspects of the Third Place with the nearly continual learning that libraries do so much to promote and support. And it was Jill who was first to help refine and define the idea of by suggesting that the Fourth Place can be anywhere as long as it has resources—including people, books, and computers.
  • Jill and I have been writing about these social learning centers in our own blogs. [Digitization 101 at; Building Creative Bridges at]. Maurice, Jill, and I also promoted the idea by actually creating a temporary Fourth Place as Social Learning Center at the 2011 Computers in Libraries conference earlier this year. Jill and Maurice were onsite, describing the idea to a live audience; I came in—belatedly, mind you, because of some tech problems we hit—via Skype; and audience members in the room and in other locations became part of this blended social learning center via Twitter. All in all, it gave participants a taste of where we are heading and what is already possible if we use the tools around us to extend learning opportunities to a wider audience than we currently reach.
  • A few of us have also sought other venues to try out this Fourth Place as Social Learning Center concept. Less than six weeks ago, Sarah Houghton-Jan [our lovely Librarian in Black;], Bill Cushard [a colleague from the ASTD Mount Diablo Chapter], and I did a presentation for our colleagues in the ASTD Sacramento Chapter. Called “Blend Me,” the session included the use of Twitter to deliver a lesson on using Twitter in learning; Google Chat to deliver a lesson on using chat for learning; and Sarah coming in via Skype to explain how Skype can bring instructors and learners together. The event went very well. Our learning colleagues in the American Society for Training & Development walked away with plenty of ideas for their own learning programs. And we had the added benefit of drawing in a few colleagues from around the country via Twitter to participate in the entire session since Bill and I took turns tweeting what was happening and keeping a Twitter feed running in the room for the live audience.
  • Our Own Unquiet Librarian—Buffy Hamilton—is going to talk to us about creating a great good place by connecting learners in a high school library, via Skype, with crew members aboard a geologic research vessel off the coast of New Zealand.
  • Maurice Coleman is going to talk to us about making podcasts--like the ones he does biweekly in his T is for Training series—an integral part of our social learning environment.
  • And it’s worth noting that some of us are already engaging in hybrid onsite and online learning opportunities by weaving Twitter into what we do—even bringing Twitter users together for learning opportunities, as we did at that ASTD Sacramento event and as my colleague Bill Cushard does so well with Twitter as a way of leading online discussions as part of leadership trainings he facilitates. There’s really no reason why we can’t be further reaching our library users with these tools and this sort of break-down-the-walls approaches…particularly since what we see in that image at the bottom right-hand corner of the slide—the Learning Resource Centre at Truro University in Gloweth, England—isn’t much different from what we find in many contemporary libraries. From the photocaption: “The open design of the Learning Resource Centre can be seen in this image. Different activity areas can be seen by all users of the library making it an inviting space. The main areas are: the book stacks, the counter area, the Wi-Fi area, the quiet study area, the social area, the computing area and a media workshop area where students from the art and photography areas have specialised kit for mounting work. Short partitions are used in some areas to help with noise reduction. Staff are centrally based and on-hand to assist with student queries.” (2003)
  • Let’s be honest. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on this one, and technological advances just keep expanding that surface in amazing ways. With the ever-growing levels of connectivity we are experiencing, it’s clear that learning can occur just about anywhere that we’re able to deliver it, as we see in the image in the upper left-hand corner of the slide—an iPad Console from Deal Extreme and manufactured in the People’s Republic of China. And although I’m not sure much learning is going on in this demo photo, just think about the possibilities of delivering some level of driver training in the right setting with this sort of tool augmenting what the learner needs to know.
  • It gets even better: augmented reality technology that is already in development or use brings learning to the moment and place of need—a very creative version of m-learning [mobile learning] as we see in that second image that overlays descriptions on top of actual physical settings.
  • And, as I mentioned in a piece I wrote recently for the ALA Editions blog []: “The Digital Youth Network and its fabulous YOUMedia collaboration for teens with the Chicago Public Library is the latest library social learning space to receive widespread attention; highlighted in the MacArthur Foundation’s Panel Discussion on Re-Imagining Learning in the 21st Century and Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century , the 50-minute PBS program which is at the heart of the Panel Discussion program, YOUMedia demonstrates that dreams of libraries as social learning centers are far from being flights of fantasy. So what’s to stop us from bringing it all home if one our great community homes remains the library—onsite and online—and if that home can play an even more important role than it is already playing as a learning center in its expanded community—the overlapping onsite and online community that really already has broken down some of those physical walls that used to artificially separate us from the larger community se serve?
  • Are our next great good places, those Fourth Places as Social Learning Centers, going to evolve from what we’ve seen information commons like the one we see here from the University of Sheffield?
  • Or the University of Las Vegas Lied Library, in the upper right-hand corner?
  • Or the University of Arizona, at the bottom? Or public libraries like Oakland Public, in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a teen center that is very much in the spirit of an information commons or social learning center? Or the new facilities open or underway in places including Denver and Brooklyn? Not just for the academic crowd. For any life-long learner or even anyone with short-term learning needs.
  • The possibilities are absolutely stunning, as we see in this second shot of the Sheffield Information Commons. And it’s in our hands—those of you sitting in this room with us today, those who are joining us via Twitter, those who may see these slides later on Slideshare or elsewhere, and anyone else enamored of the idea that we really can create something useful, sustainable, and inspiring. If we allow ourselves to dream. And then act upon those dreams.
  • So, let’s climb on the roof, turn our attention to the skies, and dream for a few minutes. What are you seeing in libraries that comes close to creating a Fourth Place? What can we be doing with the tools we have to promote our presence as onsite and online social learning centers? What barriers do we need to overcome to fulfill the promise we have of serving as social learning centers within the onsite and online communities that need our services? Now let’s turn to Buffy Hamilton for an exploration of Skype as a social learning tool within libraries.
  • We’ll move over to Buffy’s slideshow at this point []
  • So, let’s climb back on that roof again and, this time, think about Skype. What can you be doing with Skype (or Google Talk or other similar tools) to virtually bring our learners face to face in the social learning centers we are creating? What barriers are we facing? Now let’s turn to Maurice Coleman for an exploration of how podcasting can be used to develop our social learning centers as Fourth Place.
  • One last climb on the roof: What possibilities do you see within your own social learning centers for podcasting? What other possibilities should we all be exploring as we return home and look for ways to create social learning centers as a Fourth Place?
  • Here are a few resources for those who want to further explore the themes we’ve discussed today. We’ll keep these on the screen while we take any remaining questions you care to pose or thoughts you want to share with the rest of us so that we walk away with the best ideas we can adopt and adapt within our own libraries as soon as we leave each other today.
  • Social_Learning_and_Libraries

    1. 1. Social Learning: What’s In It For You And Your Library Presented by Paul Signorelli Writer/Trainer/Consultant Paul Signorelli & Associates [email_address] Maurice Coleman Technical Trainer, Harford County Public Library [email_address] Buffy Hamilton Media Specialist/Teacher/Trainer Creekview High School, Canton, Georgia [email_address] ALA Annual Conference June 26, 2011 New Orleans Sponsored by ALA Learning Round Table #ala11soclearn
    2. 2. You Can Run, But…
    3. 3. Great Good Places… First Place: Home
    4. 4. Great Good Places… Second Place: Work First Place: Home
    5. 5. Great Good Places… Second Place: Work First Place: Home Third: Community Meeting Place
    6. 6. Seeking the Fourth Place
    7. 7. Promoting Fourth Places #ala11soclearn
    8. 8. Creating Fourth Places
    9. 9. Tools for Great Good Places
    10. 10. Tools for Great Good Places
    11. 11. Tools for Great Good Places
    12. 12. Great Good Places Expanded…
    13. 13. Great Good Places Expanded…
    14. 14. Great Good Places Expanded… #ala11soclearn
    15. 15. The Next Place?
    16. 16. The Next Place?
    17. 17. The Next Place?
    18. 18. Our Great Good Places… Fourth Place: Social Learning Centers #ala11soclearn
    19. 19. Explorations, #1
    20. 21. Explorations, #2
    21. 22. Social Learning With Podcasts: Maurice Coleman
    22. 23. Explorations, #3
    23. 24. Also try: Building Creative Bridges postings on developing social learning centers as fourth place: Jill Hurst-Wahl on developing social learning centers as fourth place: Paul Signorelli on “Rethinking Library Instruction: Libraries as Social Learning Centers”: Additional Resources
    24. 26. Paul Signorelli Writer/Trainer/Consultant Paul Signorelli & Associates [email_address] Maurice Coleman Technical Trainer, Harford County Public Library [email_address] Buffy Hamilton Media Specialist/Teacher/Trainer Creekview High School, Canton, Georgia [email_address] Contact Information
    25. 27. <ul><li>Credits </li></ul>(Images taken from unless otherwise noted): Title slide: From Alyceobvious’s photostream at Satellite Dish in Rural Chinese Village: From ToGa_Wandering’s photostream at Home with Satellite Dish: From Readysubjects’ photostream at Office Tower with Satellite Dishes: From Incurable_Hippie’s photostream at Internet Cyber: From Tvancort’s photostream at Satellite Dish Farm: From Trainman74’s photostream at iPad Console in Automobile: From Hammershaug’s photostream at Augmented Reality with Smartphone: From Jason.McDermott’s photostream at The University of Sheffield Information Commons: From Biblioteekje’s photostream at Truro University Learning Resource Centre: From J isc_infonet’s photostream at Lied Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: From the Travelin’ Librarian’s photostream at University of Arizona Information Commons, from University of Arizona website at Sheffield Information Commons Aerial Shot: From Paolo_Margari’s photostream at Satellite Dish on Rooftop: From Afagen’s photostream at Thank You: From Woodlywonderworks’ photostream at