Computers and iPads and drones, oh my!
ETL507 Reflective Portfolio Part 2 – ICT in the Library
I’ve always enjoyed technology. From my primary school days when I would volunteer to help my teachers with the duplicating (oh that smell!), to my high school years when I would excitedly wait outside the maths staffroom at lunch time, pestering the head teacher to let me use his Commodore and type in pages and pages of code from a magazine in order to get a dodgy 8-bit game of Pacman or Space Invaders to operate, I’ve always been an early adopter. This has continued throughout my teaching career as I’ve been keen to experiment with and implement new technologies in my classroom. For example, during my time as an English teacher at Evans High School I developed a gaming program for a year 9 boys class, which focused on the narrative and character development through interactive games with multiple overlapping storylines. This required students to demonstrate an understanding of the structure of gaming, and to work with complex multimodal texts to analyse the effectiveness of a variety of gaming texts. See also our epic Angry Birds lesson as part of a creative writing task, which demonstrates my willingness to try new things with technology – and, in turn, reflects the important role that gaming can play in education. Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, “Gaming can make a better world”, reflects my belief in the importance of gaming and fun in learning (2010).
So, it was with this passion for technology as a means of engagement and collaboration that I approached our library technology plan. A previous principal had decided to convert significant amounts of the library floor space to establish 3 computer labs, which had been used for teaching and learning purposes during class time, with limited availability for students during breaks to complete study and homework. My studies, as well as my independent research about best practice in the modern school library, have provided me with enormous insight into the many and varied opportunities for technology integration and inclusion. ASLA and ALIA’s joint statement on school libraries and ICT provided some valuable guidance relating to the inclusion of technologies in the future school library (ASLA, 2016), whilst Holland advocates for a new paradigm of technology in the 21st century library, using emerging technologies to enhance the more traditional aspects of the school library, rather than supplant them (Holland, 2015).
With this in mind, I worked closely with our technology team to examine the possibilities for expanding technology offerings in our library. Research into available technologies that would allow students to move away from a traditional “around the wall” configuration when working on computers gave us many options, and we purchased a combination of touch screen laptops, chromebooks, and iPads, which are managed through the library catalogue for individual loan by students, bookable through our SENTRAL system for class bookings by staff, and stored in a charge and sync trolley for ease of management.
Just providing the technology didn’t introduce massive changes, however. Initially, staff using the devices continued to do so in much the same way as they had in the computer lab – the devices and geography had changed, but the practice hadn’t. Around the same time as we had expanded our available technology to include these devices, I was studying Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506), one of my Masters electives, and I came across The “Building Academic Library 2.0” video, part of a symposium sponsored by Librarians Association of the University of California, Berkeley Division in 2007.
This was a thought-provoking session, and if you haven’t seen it I’d recommend making a cuppa and settling in for an hour. It helped provide me with some much needed context as I looked at moving our library more from the more static, traditional mindset, to a more a more dynamic engaging landscape for learning. I was inspired to consult with our school community in regards to what they wanted in regards to technology, and how they’d like to use it. (Rodgers, 2015) This led to us surveying both staff and students, and establishing an action plan for the use of these devices in our library. I worked with the technology team to implement “Tech Byte Tuesdays”, where staff can attend a quick half hour session on for some tech training that will support their use of technology in the classroom. I also worked closely with faculties to offer team teaching and training on the use of iPads with classes, for both independent and group tasks.
Feedback from staff has been wonderful as a result of these changes. I have been conscious of ensuring that my efforts have been accessible to all staff, and have been inclusive of the Intensive English Centre teachers and classes. The testimonials below from staff indicate the effectiveness of this change in technology use, and the role of the teacher librarian in effecting these changes, and I’m looking forward to continuing to ensure that staff feel supported in implementing new ways to incorporate technology into their classroom, to help meet their teaching and learning goals.
“Over the past year, I have used iPads and Chromebooks on a semi-regular basis in the library. The space has dramatically changed for the better and makes for a more positive learning environment. The students have really enjoyed setting up camp on bean-bags, couches and the steps to settle in for a technology lesson. Students have particularly embraced the use of the Chromebooks, engaging with Google Drive and Google Classroom. The library and the librarian have facilitated this learning. Our librarian is on-hand to guide students through newly implemented technologies and platforms around the school.” MK, IEC teacher.
“My year 9 kids enjoyed a library sponsored seminar on book trailers given by visiting authors. When they were working on their own book trailer they chose to set the ‘book’ in the library…good access to technology and support in an interesting space made this their natural choice for zombie apocalypse fantasies…and they knew the librarian would be totally accommodating -even if it meant playing a part.” JM, EHS English teacher.
I’m gratified that my passion for technology, my consultation with our technology team, and my collaboration with teaching staff is having an impact on teaching and learning, and supporting a stronger culture of engagement in our wonderful library space.
A common trend in libraries has been the implementation of the Makerspace, as indicated in recent Horizon reports (see, for example, the 2017 NMC Horizon project wiki: NMC, 2017), and by the increasing prevalence of makerspace zones in both school and public libraries (Slatter and Howard, 2013). The past 12 months have seen the development of the Makerspace@Evans, which has been guided by student interests via survey (http://bit.ly/EvansMakerspace), and in consultation with TAS staff, to support their curriculum needs for multimedia and ICT subjects. Encouraged by my collaboration with other teacher librarians I was studying with, I reached out to my professional network, and examined what was working at other schools, drawing much inspiration from the work being done at Sydney Secondary College in the development of their fantastic makerspace.
I worked with the HT TAS to apply for a grant for funding, and have worked with a student team to renovate a previously unused room in the library to house our Makerspace. Student engagement in the process of developing the makerspace was vital, from planning activities to designing the space itself, and everything in between (Legeros, 2016). Our makerspace is a diverse collection of opportunities to explore, create, and innovate. We have 4 wall-mounted TV’s with gaming consoles, lego, craft stations, raspberry pis, and a collection of robots, including ozobots, spheros, and lego robotics. It’s an evolving space, still in the early stages of implementation. We have trialled some coding lessons with selected year 9 and 10 TAS classes, and have run superhero paper circuits workshops as part of our primary school taster lessons programs, which were run by student tech warriors, who took ownership of the activity, and displayed confidence in delivering the workshop to both students and teachers.
The most successful of our Makerspace ventures thus far has been a series of sessions with our Autism Unit. In consultation with staff, I planned and delivered a series of lessons, providing students with the opportunity to engage with a range of technologies from our makerspace. These included an electronics workshop creating paper circuits, interactive gaming sessions providing opportunities for both collaborative and independent play, and coding and robotics sessions using programming apps and our Sphero SPRK robots and accessories. The benefit of these makerspace sessions was the flexibility and adaptability of the activities, a feature which is essential for a group of students with such diversity of skills, abilities and interests (Waters, 2014). It allowed students to engage with the activity at their own level, whilst providing opportunities for extension and challenge as appropriate.
Feedback from Autism Unit staff was overwhelmingly positive, as indicated by this podcast, recorded in an interview with Steve, one of the Autism unit teachers, and a close collaborator of mine in developing our makerspace programs.
As a result of the success of these initial sessions with students, we have planned more makerspace workshops in 2017, including an extended STEM program as part of a Multimedia unit, as well as more shorter independent sessions. 2017 will also see more collaboration with other teachers, particularly those in STEM subjects, to develop teaching and learning opportunities for students using our makerspace, and I will be working with students to develop opportunities for them to use the resources outside of their timetabled classes (eg lunchtime, before and after school). I’m looking forward to continuing to explore ways that I can work with staff and students to leverage the impact of technology in our library in order to improve student outcomes and engagement, and to support staff in their teaching and learning goals.
Where to from here?
Part 2 – ICT and the Library (you are here)