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.

When technology fails you

Have you ever had technology fail you? I’m sure you have. There’s no way that it hasn’t at this point. But have you ever had it fail you in front of hundreds of teenagers and your colleagues? During a major event you’ve planned for months? Well, that’s what happened to me last week, and it was kind of horrible. Did we all survive… even me? Yes. But boy, would I have liked to have avoided THAT.

We have an annual Battle of the Books at our school in which we use clickers for the students to buzz in with. We had a record number of students participate this year, around 140, which was wonderful, but it meant the auditorium was packed tight. I borrowed a set of clickers from another school because I know our clickers are older and not that dependable. I wanted to make sure everything was going to go smoothly. Well, little did I know…

The day of the Battle I was buzzing around, getting everything ready, making sure everything was in place. We were going to do three rounds of 12 teams each to accommodate the large size, so we only checked about 15 of the 25 or so clickers. Big mistake!

Almost as soon as the Battle started, we were having some technical difficulties. Some of the teams said they were buzzing in, but their answers weren’t registering. I was a little skeptical, so I told them how to correctly input their answers again and reminded them to be patient. But then it kept happening. So, I decided to just switch out the faulty clickers for different ones. Well, the more that didn’t work, the more we pulled, and then we started realizing that the latter half of the set didn’t work at all. Some even had corroded batteries! I had borrowed a set thinking I was getting a better deal than what I had– joke was on me!

I have to say I panicked internally, but after pausing and thinking for a few minutes (not to mention one awesome student who was cooly and logically brainstorming solutions with me), we decided to do it old school: paper and pencil!

As much as I love technology, I mean, my name on here is Techno Librarian Kate, sometimes the simple way is the best way. Once we did it paper and pencil everything went smoothly. It took a little longer to grade them of course, but it worked and we had no technical difficulties.

Lessons learned: It never hurts to be REALLY overly prepared, always be ready for anything to go wrong, be flexible, and always have paper and pencil ready!

Are we to blame?

I read an interesting comment in the Letters to the Editor section of School Library Journal this month and it made me pause. A reader suggested that as we as librarians are lamenting that young people no longer want to read actual books in actual brick and mortar libraries, we’re actually the ones to blame for this because of all of our pushing of electronic devices and new tech. Good point? Maybe.

Is it because of Kindles, Nooks, and iPads that young people are reading less? Or is it just something that is happening despite our best efforts? Are ebooks getting reluctant readers to actually read? I’ve seen how using iPod touches and iPads do help lower level readers engage more with books, but I don’t know if they’re hurting us when it comes to getting these same young people to come into the library on their own.

I would argue that readers are readers no matter how they consume their books. I know some avid readers who prefer reading on handheld devices, and I know some people like me who prefer actual books. So I don’t know if it’s fair to share we’ve turned young people off books by pushing e-readers. I’ve only seen positive experiences come from using handheld devices with students, and I do think reaching out to them with these tools helps them feel less intimidated by us and our libraries.