In my newest post for DMLcentral , I share a list of questions libraries (academic, public, school) can use to “audit” the kinds of learning experiences and opportunities privileged as well as silenced within their institution. I see this working script as a springboard to conversations that can help a library take an ongoing stance on their literacy practices. The “audit” is designed to address a broad range of literacies and to help libraries engage in more critical practices. While seemingly simple, these questions are designed as a series of provocations. Issues of equity, learning, power, community, participation, and multiple forms of literacy—all of which are deeply important to me both professionally and personally—are at the heart of this audit. I invite you to be part of the conversation for my latest post; if you would like to read previous posts in this series, they are available here.
As part of our makerspace initiative this year (please see this blog post and this slidedeck here) and inspired by the work of the Sacramento Public Library, one of my focal points is thinking about ways the library can support creating communities of readers and writers who are crafting and composing texts (and I use the term text rather liberally). The Sacramento Public Library Winter 2012 “Write at iStreet Press” writing and publishing catalog offers a model of what the library as a makerspace for constructing texts looks like in a community through the public library. Possible topics I’m interested in offering as “lunch and learn” sessions or after-school sessions could include (but are not limited to!):
- Creative writing (memoirs, poetry, short stories, novels) and writer’s craft
- Self publishing options (print as well as eBook/eInk)
- Academic writing
- Digital and/or multimodal composition
- Multigenre writing
While our library program has integrated pieces of these topics in the context of curricular study and collaboration with teachers for class projects over the last few years, I would love for The Unquiet Library to offer a dedicated space (physical and virtual) for more informal learning that would give students more latitude and agency in choice and topics for writing. I see the library giving our student writing community a place where our teens could create, share, wonder, and experiment.
While I feel comfortable in leading some of these workshops that I envision, I know we need the expertise and wisdom of our local and global community to help us connect our students with teaching artists (in the spirit of Sacramento Public Library’s iStreet Press writing program) and mentors (see the wonderful Chicago Public Library YOUMedia). Right now I’m in the early stages of reaching out to peers both near and far in my personal learning network to find people in our school community and the Atlanta/north Georgia area who could help facilitate these kinds of writing workshops; I’m also open to using Google Hangouts or Skype if there are mentors from afar who would be interested in facilitating and interacting through virtual means. Additionally, I’d like to explore how our library could partner with other community groups and organizations (see this inspiration list from UC Davis Continuing Education); I think it would also be fun to collaborate with teen writing groups through other school and public libraries to extend the makerspace writing community! As we grow the makerspace, I also see us tapping into our students’ talents and enlisting their help in serving as teaching artists and mentors to their peers. I am hopeful that our makerspace writing community will create, share, and publish texts (individually as well as with peers) in a variety of genres that are personally meaningful to them.
I look forward to sharing with you our journey of this endeavor to make The Unquiet Library a true “incubator” for teen writers. What suggestions or ideas do you have for the library as a makerspace for young authors and writers who want to craft their art in a variety of genres and modes?
*author’s note: I’m delighted to share that this entry is cross-posted at National Writing Project’s Digital Is*
The concept of libraries as makerspaces first hit my radar last November when I read about the Fayetteville Free Library’s FabLab. As I began hearing more buzz about libraries and makerspaces the first few months of this year, I decided that learning more about this concept and exploring how I might apply the elements of makerspaces to my library program would be a personal learning project for the summer.
So what is a makerspace? Makerspace defines it as:
Modeled after hackerspaces, a makerspace is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests, learn to use tools and materials, and develop creative projects. It could be embedded inside an existing organization or standalone on its own. It could be a simple room in a building or an outbuilding that’s closer to a shed. The key is that it can adapt to a wide variety of uses and can be shaped by educational purposes as well as the students’ creative goals.
The Library as Incubator Project describes makerspaces as:
Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills… makerspaces are not necessarily born out of a specific set of materials or spaces, but rather a mindset of community partnership, collaboration, and creation.
In late spring, I was even more intrigued by the concept as my friend and colleague Kristin Fontichiaro began sharing some of her thoughts on makerspaces and the possibilities for school libraries. While immersing myself into researching makerspaces last week, I discovered friend and fellow librarian Heather Braum is also fascinated by the possibilities, and she shared her current list of resources with me including photos and video from her visit this past weekend to the Kansas City Maker Faire. You can learn more about Heather’s MakerFaire experience in her new blog post here.
While I am having fun soaking up ideas and brainstorming ways we could cultivate makerspaces in The Unquiet Library, I can’t help but notice that makerspaces provide opportunities for participatory learning. As regular readers of the blog know, participatory learning is the guiding framework for my library program and services. Project New Media Literacies identifies these principles of participatory learning:
- Heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation
- Learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests
- Opportunities for creating using a variety media, tools and practices
- Co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of teaching and learning
- An integrated system of learning where connections between home, school, community and world are enabled and encouraged
My excitement about the possibilities of makerspaces was fueled today by an unexpected trip to a local Barnes andNoble store and stumbling upon the “School’s Out! Summer Fun Guide” issue of MAKE magazine which includes a set of 3D glasses to interact with the magazine features! While some of the makerspace ventures do involve some startup costs and others might involve equipment and materials that wouldn’t fit the typical school library budget, this issue is brimming with ideas to help librarians easily craft makerspace culture on a dime.
So what are some additional resources if you’re in the initial thinking/planning/wondering stages for how to create a makerspace as an essential learning space in your library?
- Check out Kristin Fontichiaro’s excellent ideas and rationale for school libraries as makerspaces in her slides that were part of her ALA 2012 presentation with Susan Ballard and Peg Sullivan, “Think, Create, Share, Grow: Setting the Stage for Collaborative Inquiry” (note: file is large and may take just a minute or two to load–it is more than worth the wait!)
- A draft of the Makerspace Playbook and a High School Makerspace Tools and Materials guide (two separate files are available )
- Bud Hunt’s excellent post about the lenses of making, hacking, playing, and how these can lead to powerful learning and a sense of agency
- Jeff Sturges’ archived webinar at Connected Learning on “Strengthening Communities with Makerspaces” (think about makerspaces as a way of engaging and building community)
- John Seely Brown’s conversation with Steve Hargadon about the relationship between tinkering, DIY culture, curiosity, and learning
- My bookmarks on all things makerspace here (includes great articles about libraries and makerspaces as well as videos)
Are you thinking about incorporating makerspaces (as well as hackerspaces) into your library during 2012-2013? If so, please help the education and library communities crowdsource this concept by sharing your resources and ideas!
Interestingly enough, the magazine issue was on display in the freestanding “men’s interests” display rack—I did complain to a salesperson that the placement of the magazine was not only sexist but age inappropriate as a magazine geared toward children should probably not be displayed prominently to magazines featuring covers featuring excessive cleavage of women–she promised to share my concerns with the magazine section manager, and I’ll follow up to see what happens.
About a year ago, I was inspired by a blog post, “Fishbowl 101″, that offered an exciting chronicle of how one teacher used this medium for student-centered discussions for student engagement and for building a community of learners using face to face conversations as well as virtual tools for supporting and extending these discussions. When I initially shared this medium for learning with our faculty last year, I did not receive any responses, but when I approached Lisa Kennedy and Susan Lester, two of our English teachers, at the beginning of this academic year about trying the Fishbowl, both eagerly agreed to give it a try to see if it could be a medium for increasing student engagement in the context of content area study.
Context and Purpose for the Fishbowl
Kennedy has just finished incorporating the Fishbowl method into her unit on Romanticism with her Honors American Literature juniors; I’ve embedded her student handout with guidelines for groups, guiding questions she provided the groups, and her rubrics; these materials were based on the document created by Anne and posted from the Learning and Laptops blog entry.
We have just started using it with Lester’s class to support mixed literature circle/inquiry groups of students who are reading a variety of novels and nonfiction texts. While I have not had the opportunity to observe Kennedy’s students, I actually had the pleasure of facilitating one of two groups from Lester’s class this past Friday; I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the students and watching them connect ideas as they engaged in conversation. I was impressed with the way students interacted and the directions they took with the conversation once they relaxed and opened up the discussion. Below I’ve embedded the initial document Lester and I created together to prepare them in advance of the first Fishbowl meeting that we had this past Friday.
Initial Student Feedback and Future Variations for Extending Fishbowl Talk
The initial student responses from both classes (11th Honors American Literature/Composition and 10th Honors American Literature/Composition) have been favorable, and we are looking closely at student work and feedback to tweak the process. You can see the initial round of feedback from Kennedy’s students embedded below; Lester’s students will complete their initial responses to our first fishbowl meeting on Tuesday via our class blog.
Kennedy is contemplating incorporating live blogging into the next round of Fishbowl discussions as her students seem to enjoy incorporating visual elements into their conversations and have indicated having an archive of the discussions could be helpful; we’re looking at using CoverItLive or Google Docs as the liveblogging and archiving tool (see the great photo below from Dean Shareski’s photostream).
My cohort that I facilitated in Lester’s class is interested in having a “cohort” blog for extending and sustaining conversations outside of the face to face fishbowl meeting. Although I would be the administrator of these blogs, the two cohort blogs for Lester’s class would be set up so that students could take ownership of initiating discussion threads and moderating the discussions. I hope to have more to share about these spaces for learning for both course sections in the upcoming weeks.
Challenge: The Tension of Teacher Directed Discussion and Student Generated Discourse
One of the initial major challenges I’ve observed/experienced in helping facilitate the classes from a planning standpoint and from personal observation is the tension between a desire to scaffold students’ conversation in an effort to “guide” them to a meaningful conversation and the desire to give students more ownership of the discussions (in terms of content, questions, talking points) is one that is not always easy to negotiate. In my research on incorporating the Fishbowl method as a part of classroom discourse, I discovered this challenge is not unique. There is a fine line between “coaching” and modeling for students and not leaving enough openness for authentic discussion. As some of my colleagues on Twitter also pointed out, we as teachers sometimes find it difficult to let go and let students learn from failure and/or missteps as they learn by doing. This challenge is one I hope to further explore with Kennedy and Lester as we try to “let go” and make our instruction and approach to learning more student-led and inquiry driven.
If you have been or are using the Fishbowl for class discussions and networked learning, I’d love to hear about what is working for your students and any insights you could share from your experiences. If you have resources to recommend for my resource list on the Fishbowl, I welcome your suggestions.
Here’s a great slidedeck I came across tonight that has me thinking about search, the information landscape, and mobile computing. What are the takeaways in this presentation for libraries and teachers?