Process in the Education Program

Photosynthesis

“Why do we do what we do?” asks a colleague over the cranking of coffee machines in the Everett Café. I flip through the numbers and think through the presentations: an estimated 1,500 events since the inception of the Gottesman Libraries’ Education Program, enhanced by introductions at professional conferences, staff meetings, and the events themselves. I remember describing the needs and interests — the “hard” and “soft” c’s (community, culture, collaboration, and celebration) of our “key constituents”– in our efforts to build a signature education program; the long train ride to SUNY LA; lesser journey to NYLA;  recent proposal to IFLA.

Mindful of the enormity of the charge within the nation’s largest and arguably best graduate school of education, I ponder the realties: tuition-laden students deserving of great, free events and activities; utilization of beautiful spaces for and by our members; extension of learning outside the regular classroom; need and desire to recognize contributions to education in all forms – verbal, written, artistic, intellectual, technological. The Education Program’s mission is conceptually simple: “inform students, faculty and staff about the latest thinking in education, in ways that engage members of the community with one another and with a broad range of educational experts – and provide understanding of work being done throughout the college.” But deeper comes the realization of this new form of learning that shapes itself in the continuing process of education – a natural, organic way of growing minds and strengthening the program.

It is, rather, process — not goal. It is how we work with others, listen, and respond. It is the excitement of a spontaneous idea for a new offering, careful planning, and gracious way in which we deliver. It is the route to learning through shared experience on common ground, right here and now, using diverse programming models –a finely blended and flexible approach to cultivate onsite and online educational opportunities.

We apply Socratic method to explore key topics in the wide field of education – offering a freestyle medium, in which answers to questions can’t be predicted, flow of dialogue, anticipated, or satisfactory answers, ensured: a highly creative model for dialogue and discussion as modes of inquiry, where meaning is constructed in the beauty of the moment, and meaning re- (or de-)constructed in pursuant conversations.

We host more formal events, “stand and deliver”, for many of our guest talks, namely the colloquiums of the academic departments. The Powerpoint tendency is more defined, yet the talks thrive, prompting study and research into highly relevant topics in education, psychology, and health. Like high school math teacher Jaime Escalante, guest speakers challenge Teachers College members to higher levels of achievement through the power of knowledge – an ambition shared by instructors of library workshops, hands-on or via coffee hour, spanning federated search engines, grant tools, communication strategies, the six word memoir, and other subjects.

Comprising readings and conversations on themes, or more lecture-like in delivery, book talks are attuned to the author’s speaking style and book content. For the music program there is diversity of style, genre, and performance space — whether cozy in the café, or more “concert-like” in the adjacent atrium. With a large foreign student body, come news stories from around the world, complemented by weekly educational displays on a variety of educational topics to further support media literacy in a casual setting.

There is a new logo and the Summer 2012 expansion of the Education Program to include multiple resources, all ambitiously home-grown: educational applications, blogs, innovative curriculums, exhibitions, and scholarly publications largely initiated by EdLab, the research, design, and development unit within the Gottesman Libraries – its work contributing to the “improvement of educational institutions today and the broader evolution and reconfiguration of future educational services.”

From concept or idea, room booking to text, we share the review of promotional pieces, plus editing and design using new templates and fresh images. To spread the word, we integrate various social networks, formal and informal, internal and external:  library newsfeedPressible and Vialogues; TC Message Center and daily  digest;  TC and library calendars;  websites, e-boards; departmental list servs; Facebook and Twitter; topped with Pocketknowledge, our digital archive.

If “promotion is furthering the growth of a service – not just telling people about it”,* we invite discussion of methods. I think of photosynthesis, the process in which green plants and other organisms transform light energy into chemical energy — and understand how we develop. The program (plant) channels the people (sun) to make education (food); promotion (chlorophyll) is the magical compound that grabs the people (sun) and starts the whole process.

* Kathy Dempsey, Author of The Accidental Library Marketer

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