Teacher librarians are the tech leaders of our schools

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Libraries aren’t dead!

I’ve never worried too much about the demise of libraries because I’ve worked at a public library and I’ve seen how busy they still are, especially during the bad economic times. Proving my lack of worry right, a recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that more than two-thirds of Americans are actively engaged with libraries. I came across this article that explains people still trust libraries to help them find accurate information, and socially engaged people understand the importance of libraries in the community. Even active community members who have never been to the library were found to understand their civic importance. And a bonus little fun fact, these people are called “Distant Admirers.” Isn’t that cute! The most engaged group is known as “Library Lovers.” What are you called if you love libraries AND are a lifetime employee of them? Hmm…

But what struck my attention for this blog is that this study disproved a common misconception- that technology is killing people’s interest in libraries. It found that the biggest technology users are also the biggest library users! Smartphones, e-readers, and Google have not killed off people’s love of libraries and actual books. But honestly, I’ve seen how libraries, both public and schools, have been changing to embrace and offer more technology, so this isn’t a shocker for me. Smart people are smart people, and they realize the important of libraries and trustworthy information.

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Upcoming tech trends in the library

I’ve come across a couple of articles recently prognosticating on upcoming tech trends in education, so I thought I’d pick out a few and share.

The first one I’ll mention is the flipped classroom, since my last blog post was on that. I think this trend started a couple of years ago with Khan Academy. It was founded in 2006, but I think the 60 Minutes television article really brought mainstream education to the table. I had one teacher who loved using Khan Academy, but she retired about two years ago, and sadly I don’t see too many of my current teachers using it anymore. That’s a shame because I think it’s a great springboard to a fully flipped classroom. I know of one of our teacher who has fully embraced flipped learning, due mostly because his wife just had a baby, and since he was out a lot, it was more out of necessity. But it seems like he’s sticking with it and as far as I know it’s working great. If you’re looking to get started, see my last blog post for some helpful tools to wade into the flipped pool.

Social media is another area that’s still growing in the education field. I’ve seen some school libraries that have Twitter and Facebook pages, but our district blocks those websites, so that takes those out of the equation for me. But I’ve found success with my school blog, Edmodo, Remind 101, and even Pinterest amongst the staff (well, like two teachers follow my school Pinterest page, but it’s a start). Specifically for libraries, there are sites like Shelfari and GoodReads that allow users to keep track of books they’ve read and want to read and share those lists with others. I ADORE GoodReads and think it’s brilliant, and I wish more of my students would use it. Just remember to be careful with social media and crossing any professional boundaries with students. I’m sure your students are the same as mine and love to share every little detail of their lives on social media, and they drool over the chance to befriend you online, too. But keep your social sites strictly professional, and don’t ever give a student your personal cell phone number.

I want to mention MOOCs next mainly because this is one area that I’m woefully undereducated in. I know what a MOOC is (a Massive Open Online Course), but I haven’t had a chance to actually take one or even really look into any, but I want to. I think many of us librarians are familiar with the idea of a MOOC since many of our Masters programs are online. Some people have complained that although MOOCs are wonderful because they allow everyone access to Ivy League level classes, they take out the face-to-face element of learning. But we’re no strangers to that, and I don’t think I suffered one bit getting my Master’s degree online. I don’t know how much MOOCs will affect us in K-12, I think we should promote them to our brightest students who are always wanting to learn more, as well as to our colleagues.

The last trend is BYOD and one-to-one devices in schools. Right now we do allow students to bring their own devices to school if they and their parents sign the appropriate paperwork, but we also have very rigid rules forbidding use of cell phones. It’s a little complicated. Next year a handful of our schools will be pilot programs for one-to-one devices, with K-2 getting iPads and 3-12 getting laptops. As exciting and innovating as this all sounds, the daily work involved is scaring some of my co-workers. The students do not get to take these devices home, so that means the school librarian will have to check them in and out and store them each day and night. And I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to tech help with teachers and students. When our IT person is busy or not around, guess who everyone comes to? And when EVERY STUDENT has his or her own device, well, imagine that. I know that this is the way it’s all going, but it is a little daunting to think about how this will change our jobs.

So, strap in, the future is here today. It’s not all neither good nor bad, but it for sure will be interesting.

Flipping the classroom

I keep hearing about how everyone is flipping their classroom, and I want in on the action, too! I have already sort of dipped my toe in the flipped pond, so to speak, with my school blog, texts to students, and book trailers on my website, but I haven’t really jumped in all the way. I keep meaning to start, but where does a librarian start? Classroom teachers have it easy because they can just start with that day’s lesson, and voila, there’s your first video. But maybe it’s not so bad being a teacher librarian, because we have more freedom and luckily, access to tons of resources to help us get started.

The easiest way is to just set up a camera and video yourself, or have someone very kind and patient video you. Although it’s hard nowadays to get your hands on a Flip camera (pictured below), you can always use a smartphone or tablet to video with. One idea I had a while back and just can’t seem to accomplish is videoing students demonstrating proper library behavior, like how to check out a book or computer, or where to find a book on the shelf. It would be fun and incredibly simple, but I just never seem to find the time to do it.

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There are also services like Camtasia (http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html) that allow you to do screen recordings if you want to create a lesson on how to use the databases or correctly cite a research paper. Camtasia isn’t free, but if you search you can find similar services that are.

Apps that can help you flip your classroom are also becoming a more regular sight. One that received an excellent review in School Library Journal is TouchCast. It’s only available on iPads right now, but it’s chock-full of tools that can help you and your students create professional-quality videos.

And finally, if you’re even less ready than me to get started with a fully flipped experience, there are tools that help you share videos that OTHER people have made. Teachem.com and Huzzaz.com are both free websites that basically allow you to curate collections of videos for your students. They both also feature interactive elements that go along with your videos.

So don’t be like me, go on and get started flipping that classroom (library)! It sounds really fun!

Computer Science Education Week

Today is the last official day of Computer Science Education Week: http://csedweek.org/ and we participated at my school by exposing students to The Hour of Code 2013. This is a series of free tutorials that walk students (and adults like me) through the basics of coding. If you make an account you can keep track of your progress, and students K-12 can also win prizes if they complete all of the modules.

I had limited availability in the library this week due to testing and Bright Futures sign up, but I packed as many teachers in as I could. The site is going to stay up for a while longer, so maybe I can coax some more teachers into letting their classes try it out.

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I was so happy to see how engaged the students were in the process and how they helped each other figure the puzzles out. I know coding isn’t for everyone, and I told them that, but it’s all about exposure in my opinion. How do you know what you like until you’re exposed to it? I wish I would have known how much I enjoyed graphic design before my senior year of college, for instance. So, expose them to as much as possible as soon as possible, I say!