Good partnerships are essential to any organisation. When different people come together they cannot help but look at the same problem in different ways; working across organisations, and beyond, mitigates the potential for fracturing off into silos– silos are anathema to good organisations. This year the library has been strategically focused on partnering with faculties in order to strengthen our relationships, build deep knowledge across the curriculum and enrich student learning through critical thinking and research. Sometimes the simplest and most obvious ideas really do hold the most currency.
Loreto consultation with stakeholders often cites partnerships, as hugely important. Therefore, we know the library is in good company in pursuing partnerships but where is the recent interest in divergent thinking coming from? The world is changing at a rapid rate and in order to survive in that world organisations need the ability to pivot and adapt. The ‘lean’ organisation is not one that has abandoned its values, it’s one that knows the key to success is a continual feedback loop. Organisations of yesteryear might have spent months perfecting a solution to a problem without really knowing if they were solving the right problem. Progressive solutions come from empathetic understanding of the issues you need to solve. A new documentary by Invision called Design Disruptors focuses on a group of 15 disruptive companies– valued at $1 trillion combined. Tesla, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Coursera, Dropbox and Netflix are successful precisely because they didn’t rely on what worked yesterday. Instead, they attacked the pressure points of established industries by doing things radically differently.
One of the greatest analogies I have heard to date about the importance of widening the net in order to encompass divergent thinking comes from Professor of Complex Systems Scott Page who used tomato sauce (ketchup) to address the issue in an interview on Gimlet Media’s podcast Reply All:
Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.
As the host of the show then points out, “the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.”
The library team itself is diverse– in age, background and experience– and we relish this diversity because it means we rarely apply similar strategies to the challenges faced. In our own humble way we are building strong partnerships by teaming up with faculties in order to both learn from them as well as ‘widening the net’ for our students. This might be opening the door to research skills and strategies, team teaching or creating pop up installations that tackle issues from diverse perspectives.
Year 10 History: The Battle for Australia
Drawing on their own experiences of Far North Queensland the year before, Year 10 History students needed to understand how the lives of North Queenslanders changed because of the Japanese threat and specifically to step into the life of one particular character ranging from a housewife who joins the Women’s Land Army while her husband is away at war to an Italian-Australian who is interned in a POW camp at the start of the war.
Attempting to bring history to life we asked students to ‘enrol in the Women’s Land Army’ in the library. Once here the students undertook visible thinking routines that brought prior knowledge to the fore before embarking upon their research by interacting with our pop-up realia installation that aimed to bring the lived experiences of the historical characters to life.
Year 8 Religious Education: Early Christian Communities
Year 8 were asked to investigate early Christian communities by meeting covertly in ‘St Paul’s cave’ (recreated in the library of course). Once there we discussed why Christians had to meet in secret and how they knew where to meet. The students were then sent out into the library space in three rotating groups. They brought their own insight to Pentecost through a visible thinking routine, used books and maps to trace St Paul’s journeys and wrote their own letter offering up insights on what love means to them.
These are just some of the ways the library is working towards working in partnership with faculties in order to do something a little different in the teaching and learning space. We also recognise that we have a duty to offer students experiences that extend learning beyond the school gate. To that end we are currently running a competition that offers students the chance to visit the Australian headquarters of Google and Atlassian on Thursday 25th August. These thirty students will not only be inspired to think about a career in technology but get the chance to visit a workplace that in 2015 was voted the best place to work in Australia for the second year running. Our students expectations about workplaces and work life balance will be vastly different to our own. For one thing, flexible and creative thinkers who have excellent technology skills are already being courted in the job market.
We have also mounted a pop-up installation — an informal partnership– celebrating the current exhibition of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at the NSW Art Gallery. With potential mergers between Sydney College of Art (SCA) and UNSW and wide scale funding cuts to the arts it is more important than ever to cross promote an interest in art and culture. To this end, we are also showcasing the fantastic work of our Year 7 artists who have been inspired by Chinese painter and sculptor Ah Xian to create ceramic heads.
The library should not be seen as a static place but somewhere that is responsive. It should evolve in tandem with the culture of the school. More broadly, it must grow and change as the needs of its users do. We are not quite sure where this journey will take us but personally, I find that a good place to be. I like to think of the library staff as tour guides who facilitate journeys into unknown territory. As people who are not afraid to experiment, to create memorable experiences for our users and to experiment side by side with those users. The question of whether each endeavour worked or not is simply the launch pad for a better solution.
Ms Elizabeth Green
Knowledge & Learning Strategist