Goodbye Medfield – Hello Earl
by Mare Parker-O'Toole
At the end of the month I will be leaving Medfield Public Library after four years. It’s been an amazing time and I’ve had the privilege of working with wonderful people on the staff and working for a wonderful public. My reasons for leaving are not connected to any dissatisfaction with the job, no mistake, I love Medfield library. But, as I’ve written in the past, Star Trek beckons. So, I will be assuming the position of Assistant Director of the Earl Center for Learning and Innovation at Wheelock College in Boston.
The Center is brand new. It houses a teaching resource center as well as a full complement of technological tools, computers, tablets, projectors, whiteboards. The creation of the Center reflects the cultural shift that we are all in the midst of. This shift has ramifications across all facets of our lives. It affects how we communicate, what jobs we do (and which jobs vanish), and it has a profound influence on children and how learning and teaching are conceived.
The traditional teaching model was based on producing factory workers. Chairs in rows, regulated by clocks and strict adherence to days planned minute by minute. This model is no longer adequate. We are in the midst of a change driven by our relationship to technology. For our children this is the normal way of things. They are the digital natives. We are living in a time where the children may know more than the adults about some technologies that have become fundamental in so many parts of our lives. I don’t think this has ever happened before.
At the same time we are at risk of losing a connection to at least one of our senses, that of touch. With touch-screens, mice and keyboards we can do activities like “paint” that uses no real paint, no smell, no touch and, some might argue, no mess. But what is being lost? Particularly if the activity involves children who need to develop all of their senses by fully experiencing an activity like painting. This is the magic of the Center in that it can provide students with the ability to learn how to teach across the range of possibilities.
The Earl collection provides the concrete hands on materials so important to engage children in all their senses. It also has the technology to extend this into the virtual world of software and apps and ways of engagement that are only now being invented. The Center will be a safe and rich environment for all to learn, to encourage people to try new things and think big; encourage play, not just as a way of learning for children but as a way of exploring for adults. I will have the opportunity to promote the ability to learn, unlearn and learn new things as the speed of technology accelerates. This is what the successful teacher of the future will need to be able to do. It is also what the successful citizen of the future will need to be able to do. I see the Center as having potential to provide value for experiences that may not even be conceived yet.
I will deeply miss Medfield but the call to the future is too compelling.