Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 4

Karen Spencer: Beyond the echo chamber – The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession


Karen was probably a really sensible keynote to end uLearn on. After a couple of days of being exposed to numerous ideas, Karen spoke about ‘so what now’? What happens when you get back to your school?

It is so easy to get caught up in the energy and enthusiasm of events such as uLearn. Being surrounded by motivated professionals (it was the school holidays after all!) and without facing the barriers of your school environment, it is easy to get creative about the changes you’ll make or get swept up in the latest educational fad. But Karen reminded us to pause and take a step back before implementing the next big idea.

Ways to do this are:

  1. Find the urgency. What are the most important things for our learners? Any changes should be focused on creating desired outcomes for our students. Choose the most important initiatives and make sure they are sustainable. Too often we fall into the trap of trying too many new things at once.
  2. See the story behind the data. Data gives us a picture, but it is not the whole picture. Talk to students and ask them for their stories – understand why the data says what it says. Consider the viewpoints of all learners and ensure planned changes are going to help them.
  3. Be able to embrace discomfort. Acknowledge that people see different things in the data and student stories – there is no one correct interpretation. Look for ways to hear diverse views and have biases challenged. Learn from those who think differently. Work to avoid the dangers of being in an echo chamber.

Unsurprisingly, this was my favourite idea of Karen’s:


This is the attitude I try to have towards changes I make in the library. Want to make a change? Just do it. And if it doesn’t work? Stop doing it. Be prepared to fail, and be prepared to walk away from an initiative that is not working. Remembering that the focus should always be on students and their learning – not staff ego!

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • I have a great PLN, but am in serious danger of being in an echo chamber – find some diverse viewpoints quickly!
  • I need to get some student feedback and stories – remember non-library users as well

Some links and follow ups:


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