The first time I entered my office at our new school in Japan, I was impressed by the meticulous organization of the college counseling library. The course catalogues and university view books had been divided into continents, countries and states/provinces. The university library reminded me of my own days in high school, of pulling course catalogues off the wall and reading them at a huge wooden table in the counseling office. My eyes were full of stars; I would be the first person in my family to attend university. I knew it.
In spite of my nostalgic connection to those catalogues, on my second day of work, I threw them all out. Rather, I placed them in the hallway to be recycled and a number of my lovely colleagues and administrators carried thousands of glossy documents down three flights of stairs. I feel grateful to those servant leaders who did not say, “Monna, you are crazy to get rid of these catalogues that it took years to collect” and to the woman who organized the information in the first place.
The thing that has changed since I was in high school in the 1980s is that every member of the graduating class of 2011 has access to the most complete university counseling library ever imagined. They have access to documents that are being written now… and now… and now. This library can be customized to their interests, passions and budget and may be accessed at any time through their shiny new MacBook Pro, home computer or smart phone. On the commute to and from Tokyo, on the bus to the soccer game and in between homework tasks, our students are now doing almost all of their university research online. They are networking with friends and friends of friends through Facebook, conducting searches via sites and tools such as College Board, UCAS and College Prowler, and visiting the websites of specific universities.
As a high school counselor, one of my roles is to help our students find and skillfully use appropriate online tools for their university search. This instruction happens during individual meetings, in educational sessions with students and parents, on my blog and via Twitter at YISUni. Students have never had access to so much information about amazing post-secondary opportunities but they still need guidance to navigate the virtual libraries.
As for that table at which I used to sit and read university catalogues… I still am a big fan. Now that we have created a Twitter account to network with universities all over the world, I’m working on getting a round table for people to sit together in my office – to talk and to learn – with and without our computers.