An Open Letter to My 21st-Century Learner in Action

Dear Ella,

Before you read the rest of the letter, please accept my apologies.  I am about to gush about you a little bit.  I know you hate being in the center of attention — good or bad — but I can’t help myself.  I am well aware that as parents, we can go a *teensy* bit overboard with our children and what you can do better/faster than all the other children.  I know this is kind of uncool, but rest assured that this letter is not about that.

This letter is about what you, a middle-schooler, can already do better at 12 than *I* can ever dream to do at almost-40, with all sorts of ease and nonchalance and almost-smug self-confidence (“What do you mean, where did I learn how to screencast?  I just did it.”).

The information scientist in me is jumping up and down with joy.  I want to shake you and say, “Wow.  Look at you and what you can do!  We learn about YOU in library school — a 21st century learner! — and here you are, in flesh and blood!”

See, some of us me included — balked at the idea that librarians now have to take time away from books and learn/teach emergent technologies and new ways to search for and use information.  We kind of pouted through having to adopt new standards for your generation, because we really loved our books and how they smelled and felt in our hands.

But the reality is, you and your 21st century learner friends are going to do your thing, whether we are there to guide you or not.  We can sulk all we want, but you are still going to find your own tools and ways to create, interact, and learn in this new landscape.  In fact, if we don’t adapt, you might end up being the ones teaching us.  (Actually, you’ve already taught me a number of times.)

You don’t have a lot of subscribers or views on your channel or website, but that should not be your goal anyway.  Your products are not perfect, but then again, you’re only 12, and you have created something tangible without ever opening up a software manual.  You use more likes and yeahs and basicallys than a “good speaker” might, but for someone who used to throw up the night before school presentations, who could not speak at more than a whisper, who hated talking to people in general — you sounded more comfortable and confident than I have ever dreamed you’d be capable of.  My media specialist friends and I have warned students about the dangers of the computer screen (“Online predators hide behind those!” “People are not always what they seemed online!”), but you have shown me that sometimes a screen offers the protection someone needs to show their best selves.  You might still be a little scared to talk in front of people face to face, but with a little bit of anonymity, you are learning to communicate your ideas and knowledge effectively.

And that’s big for us introverts.  No longer are you a passive recipient of information — you are an active contributor.  Know that you might be shy, but your creativity and ideas are important to the world.  Know that you might be quiet, but you can still share, participate, and collaborate.  Technology can be your door into community of like-minded thinkers, makers, and world-changers.

If you are already hosting your own YouTube channel and making fan vids and screencast tutorials at 12, imagine what you might be doing at 15, 18, 25….  I know that as your mom, I cannot wait to find out!

Love,

Your very proud (and humbled) librarian mama

P.S. I know you have heard my speech a million times about online predators, digital footprint, internet safety, etc. etc.  But PLEASE, do be careful when you are online!  This mama can’t lose you!


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