school libraries

Partnering for Possibilities: NHS Media Center, Gwinnett County Public Library, 3D Printing, and More

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The grand finale to Teen Tech Week 2014 was the first step in a partnership (more details later in this post!) between our media center and our friends from the Gwinnett County Public Library.  Training Manager Christopher Baker, Information Technology Director Michael Casey, and Grayson Assistant Branch Manager Steve Thomas joined us for three lunch/guided study periods to introduce 3D printing to our teens.   Christina Gangwisch, Public Services Librarian from our neighboring Peachtree Corners branch, was also part of the festivities and provided students information on getting a public library card as well as details about the library’s eBook collection and activities for teens.   Armed with the library 3D Makerbot Replicator 2 printer, enthusiasm, and lots of 3D artifacts created on the printer to share with students, the three facilitated small group, 1:1, and large group conversations with 59 of our NHS teens!  Steve joined my colleague Jennifer Lund and I as co-learners with the teens (we’re all newbies to 3D printing)  while Michael and Chris wowed all of us with their artful expertise and interaction with our students.   It was a day marked by joy, curiosity, wonder, and excitement as nearly every teen who attended saw the 3D printer in action for the first time.  The conversations were organic, and we appreciate how responsive Michael and Chris were to the learning needs and interests of our students.

We were especially excited that most of our core group who attended our other Teen Tech Week sessions earlier in the week not only attended the 3D session, but several of them invited friends—the result was a vibrant cross-section of students who got to see the possibilities for both the public library as well as our own.   One of the participants, Brianna, shared this reflection:

The 3D printer was really cool.  When I first saw it, it was making a small robot.  There were other things like a small owl which was really cool because it looked like an actual owl.  Watching the 3D printer make stuff was an amazing experience.  I hope to see it make stuff again in the future at the public library because I really liked watching designs people created get made.  I also hope to come up with with a design of my own to be with the 3D printer.”

Another student, Nanier, offered these reactions to the day:

The 3D printing machine was an awesome thing to see at work.  I think that if the school had one, it would be really cool because we could use it to do prototypes for a project.  So I would really like for there to be one, or for us to do or help to get one.

In addition to getting student responses to our day of collaborative learning, I also asked our GCPL colleagues to share their reflections.  Michael Casey wrote:

As this was the first time that we’ve taken the printer anywhere, I was surprised by almost everything. I liked that we attracted what appeared to be lots of different types of students. There were some real science/tech kids there but there appeared to also be some students who never really heard of 3D printing but were curious. It was fun, in talking with them, to see and hear their thought processes regarding the possibilities of 3D printing. Many immediately jumped to far larger projects — biological matter, complex part production, etc. I’m hoping that a few kids went home and went online to learn a bit more about the possibilities.  It’s always great to be able to connect the theoretical with the practical and, in this case, the tactile. We were able to talk about very complex printing uses (human organs, etc) and also hand out small items that were made with a real 3D printer — a pedestrian version of the more complex printers, true, but still an actual 3D printer that has a cousin out there who may eventually save lives.

Chris Baker also found the student’s excitement energizing for him:

I had an awesome time demoing the MakerBot and talking with everyone who stopped by to watch the MakerBot do its thing! As Michael mentioned in his message, it was great to have such a diversity of students involved and interested in the session! My favorite takeaway from the session revolves around the reception the MakerBot received from the students vs. the reception it often receives from adults; there was a total lack of cynicism regarding the MakerBot with the teens on Friday! I’m defining cynicism very softly here because the MakerBot always receives a warm reception, but often with adult audiences, it comes with a few leading questions that belie underlying feelings of cynicism and/or fear, i.e. “Aren’t people using 3D printers to make weapons?” or in a smaller way, “I wouldn’t even know where to start with this thing”. Not only did the students seem amazed by the technology, they also seemed amazed by the possibility! Thanks again for this opportunity for feedback; Friday’s session was one of the most inspiring and encouraging sessions I’ve been a part of in some time!

Steve Thomas’s reflections very much echo the participatory practices from our colleagues in museums as he views the opportunity to be a co-learner and to take the students’ learning experiences as “grist” for next steps in designing learning experiences:

As I’m still in the early stages of learning about 3D printing myself, I was delighted to see how the students’ eyes lit up with the potential for the technology; it will be fun learning with them at this summer’s MakerCamp. Even the quietest students had good questions about how the MakerBot worked, wanting to learn more about its potential applications but also about how the underlying technology worked. The future is coming fast and I’m excited to be part of the effort to collaborate with our public schools to usher in this new service. The lessons we are learning from this initial partnership will help shape how we use the 3D printer and other new technologies with the rest of our community.

We all feel confident that this three hour investment in our students has ignited interest for many of our teens in 3D printing and design and will be a bridge to additional learning opportunities co-fostered by NHS and GCPL.  So what are our next steps from this initial day of ideation and immersion? What might those opportunities be?

chris-students

The Partnership

The partnership between NHS and GCPL was born out of an initial conversation between Michael and me when we realized very quickly that we have a shared interest in participatory learning and services.  Together we spearheaded an initial core team that includes ourselves, Chris, Steve, Events and Outreach Manager Amy Billings, my fellow NHS librarian Jen Lund, Robotics Team sponsor Joe Floyd, NHS LSTC (Local School Technology Coordinator) Victoria Dodd, and science teacher Alix Hardy. We’ve had a series of three meetings and numerous conversations since early December that have culminated in these first steps that we hope will lead to additional and organic work as we learn together and from our students.

Pilot 1: Beginning Small:

The first is a small -scale program between the public library and our Norcross HS Robotics Club. This will be a series of four visits to the club after school this spring with both staff from the public library and NHS Media Center participating/facilitating an hour or ninety-minute session of ideating, designing, doing, and learning.  The club will  use various software like Tinkercad to create objects on the 3D printer and participating club members will share their knowledge (existing and growing) with the library staff so we can together learn various software applications beyond the basic two we currently understand. This series is designed to be a learning opportunity for us as the librarians as much as the students.

Pilot 2:  Summer Maker Camp at the Public Library

Final details are still being fine tuned, but here is an overview of how we will scale the first pilot into a larger participatory experience:

  • Norcross HS Media Center will host  A “Tech Petting Zoo”  celebration and sharing day in the library with the 3D printer and Makey Makey kits to encourage students to participate in the upcoming Maker Camp. This event will be co-facilitated by NHS MC staff and GCPL staff; students who participated in the Robotics Club may also help facilitate during the day.
  • A four session Summer Maker Camp at the Peachtree Corners branch (Monday to Thursday) will take place in early June. Over these four days,  a mix of high school and library staff will introduce camp makers to the various software applications, offer training, and offer library resources (PCs, Chromebooks, etc) for the students to use, in-branch, in designing their objects. We would begin printing the objects in the final session.  Robotics Club members interesting in serving as co-mentors may also help facilitate during these four days.
  • The closing community event for participants, family, and friends, probably the following Monday or Tuesday, will be a celebration of learning and students will be recognized for their work and unique talents they’ve demonstrated.  
  • We hope to broadcast (via a live video feed) the actual printing of the objects and learning activities to share our learning with the larger community and perhaps even invite vetted experts to participate in the conversations for learning as we create and make.   Students will also help staff capture the experience through other forms of multimedia such as Instagram and Vine.

We are all excited by these seed ideas and cannot wait to see what grows from these collaborative learning opportunities.  While we see eBook creation/publishing, web design, and composing practices as future potential areas of partnership, we also are eager to see how student interests may inspire additional sustained projects.  We hope to work together as a team so that the learning spaces between the school library, classroom, and public library are seamless spheres of learning that overlap and inform each other in rich, robust, and equitable ways.  I think there is much potential for us to explore how we can frame our collaborative work through a lens of connected learning, and we all look forward to forging these pathways to many kinds of learning!

Participatory Culture and Learning: Knowledge Quest September/October 2012

http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/archive/v41no1

Participatory Culture & Learning | American Association of School Librarians (AASL) via kwout

I’m delighted to share that the September/October 2012 issue of AASL’s Knowledge Quest is now available; I had the tremendous honor of co-editing this issue with my good friend and colleague Ernie Cox.  The issue’s theme, participatory culture and learning, is one that has been central to my work in recent years and as most of you know, a lens of practice and thinking that is close to my heart.  We hope that our readers will be as enthralled as Ernie and I are with the quality and diversity of articles; a talented range of practitioners and scholars who work in librarianship as well as related fields have contributed rich, thoughtful, inspiring, and provocative articles to this issue.  Not only am I honored to serve as co-editor with Ernie, but I’m also thrilled to have co-written an article with four of my Media 21 students for this issue.  Many thanks to Kristiena Shafer, Jordan Grandt, Bethany Roper, and Jacob Morgan who gave up a slice of their summer to co-compose our collaborative article.

Here are a few links of interest for those who may be waiting on their print issue to arrive in the mailbox , who may be looking forward to accessing the issue later this fall through their library databases, or who want to access additional resources and content independent of the print issue:

A heartfelt thank you to all of our authors, Ernie, Markisan, and the entire AASL KQ team who worked diligently to help us take this issue from abstract musings that began in the early spring with mine and Ernie’s marathon Skype session to reality this fall.  Whether you are a librarian, classroom teacher, student, parent, administrator, or community member, I hope the issue will expand your thinking about the possibilities for participatory sites of culture and learning in schools and libraries.

Choosing an eBook Platform(s) for Your K-12 School Library

Many thanks to ALA TechSource for allowing me to do another webinar with them last week and to the gracious participants who took time to join us!  Be sure to check out my Scoop.it magazine on eBooks and eReaders.

Nook Program @ The Unquiet Library Update, March 2012

Catching Up

Many of you have been writing or Tweeting for updates on the Nook program we had planned to launch last fall; unfortunately, several factors slowed our launch date for the program, including:

  • a lack of clerical help this academic year
  • an incredibly busy schedule of instruction (a good problem to have!) in the library; since the teaching and learning focus comes first, we prioritize our energies into that effort first
  • significant delays in the communication process with Barnes and Noble in processing our ebook purchase orders

At this time, we own 50 Nook Simple Touches; Nooks 1-35 are designated with our Barnes and Noble Managed Digital Locker program for classroom use, which could include literature circle book study or independent reading selections.  Nooks 36-50 are for circulation to students who return a parental permission form or who would like to use them in the library during a class or lunch visit.  I worked with Dan Boon, my Community Relations Manager at the Alpharetta Barnes and Noble,  to establish groups of Nooks so that it would be easy for B&N to deliver the eBooks we order via purchase order to the appropriate Nook devices.

Challenges with the Digital Managed Locker Program

In terms of the digital managed locker program, there have definitely been some problems that I have experienced as have many of you.

1.  Barnes and Noble has frankly not done a very good job in educating its employees about the Digital Managed Locker program.  As you can imagine, librarians who are trying to inquire and find out more information about the program feel frustrated when they can’t get the answers they need, and the B&N employees also feel frustrated that they may not have been provided the information and training they need to help implement the program with school librarians or classroom teachers in an effective manner.  I know these concerns have been concerned to B&N management from those of us in the trenches as well as from employees, so I’m hopeful they are committed to being more systematic in communicating the information more effectively.  If you are not able to get the answers you need from someone at the first store you visit or call, I recommend contacting a neighboring store or the regional Barnes and Noble manager for your area.

2.  In some store locations, the community relations manager or person designated as the “go to” person for the Digital Managed Locker program is just swamped with multiple responsibilities; consequently, they may have difficulty dealing with the communications from librarians or teachers in a timely manner.  Since there is no electronic/virtual  interface at this time that librarians can access to submit purchase orders and manage eBook (or app) orders, eBook orders can be delayed significantly when there are gaps in communication.  We as librarians and teachers desperately need a virtual interface to manage these orders; email is simply not an efficient means of managing the orders; we as customers need the option of having more control over reassigning texts to different devices if needed.  While I appreciate that B&N is doing a lot of the management for me, I need to be able to have a point of access to do it myself when needed.

Our local store and representative are committed to helping B&N address these concerns; I very much appreciate that Dan has shared my suggestions for improving the communication channels and order management with those who work at a higher level in the company.  In addition, I appreciate that Dan is willing to come out to my school site if I need assistance with devices.

In terms of technical issues, they have been minimal so far.   We have not had any issues connecting to wireless, and the downloading process has been fairly seamless.  We did have one device go bad as we could not unlock it; after not having any success with the 1-800 technical support, our representative Dan was helpful in resolving the issue and actually bringing us a replacement device (a major time saver–thank you!).  We did have one device not receive the appropriate eBooks assigned to that device, but we are working on resolving that issue as we speak.  One other helpful hint:  it took me a while to realize that the power button is on the back of the Nook; thankfully, the covers we bought are designed to stay on and have the Nook symbol on them so that you can press it and power the device off and on without having to remove the cover.

First Steps of Implementation, Spring 2012

We have now started circulating devices to students for free reading (yes, I let them take the devices home—students and parents sign an acceptable use agreement, and we also bought a 2 year warranty), so I hope to have their feedback for you soon.  The initial impressions, though, have been very positive–students really seem to like the “swipe” technology as well as the size of the devices (it fits in their pockets).   One student in particular is absolutely thrilled to have the chance to use a modern eReader—I am not exaggerating when I say he was giddy and glowing when he left the library!  At this time, the free circulation Nook collection (36-50) is purely student driven like our Kindle eBook collection since students submit eBook request forms when they turn in their permission forms).   At this time, the loan period is one week although we hope to extend that in the future.

Our other initial pilot group is Deborah Frost’s 1st period  9th Literature/Composition class.  The majority of the class, boys, chose to read Monster by Walter Dean Myers; the remainder of the class, girls, selected The Secret Life of Bees.  Since many of the students in the class are self-described reluctant readers, we”ll be surveying them regularly about their reading experiences on the Nooks to see if the medium of reading has any impact on their feelings about reading.  The students are excited  (as are we!) to be the first pilot group; I hope to provide some updates in April when they finish their unit of study.

Questions via Email and the Blog

First I want to apologize if you have emailed me in the last month, and I have not answered your email individually.  For the last year or so, I have tried very hard to answer each inquiry individually and in a timely manner.  However, the number of inquiries has come to a tipping point, and I’m just not able to continue answering inquiries personally at this time.    I’m hopeful that either this blog, my Kindle LibGuide, my Nook LibGuide, or my recent chapter in No Shelf Required II edited by Sue Polanka, will give you the answers you’re seeking; you might also want to follow my Scoop.it magazine on eBooks and eReaders.

I’ve received several emails as of late about how we are circulating the eBooks via our OPAC and tracking what students read.   At this time, there is no way to do either–neither Kindle eBooks on a Kindle device nor a Nook book via a Nook device.   I do not assign MARC records to the eBooks for Kindle or Nook although I do catalog the devices; as I’ve written before, I don’t catalog the Kindle or Nook eBooks individually because 1.  you can’t really “circulate” them via your OPAC and 2.  I don’t assign them to the devices in the MARC record because media specialists in my district do not have rights to edit existing MARC records.    If you need to track that kind of data or circulate eBooks electronically, then you will need to look at an eBook platform like Follett eBooks or Overdrive that is designed to function in those ways.

Next Steps

We’ll now provide students post-reading surveys about the Nook reading experience to determine if they are a good fit for our students;  I’ll also be working with Ms. Frost to get her feedback as a classroom teacher.   While I’m still looking for an eBook platform whose licensing agreements are acceptable for my library and learning environment, especially as our district is now ready to implement a bring your own device policy for 2012-2013, I still think there is a place for circulating the devices themselves since so many don’t have one of their own.  I look forward to giving you a new update in a few weeks as I document our journey of learning and exploration of eBook and eReader experiences and options.

Why I Am Not Signing The “Save Libraries” Petition

A steady barrage of listserv messages, tweets, Facebook postings, and blog entries have been making the rounds in recent weeks urging people to sign a petition that states the following:

“Any school receiving Federal funds should be required to have a credentialed School Librarian on staff full time with a library that contains a minimum of 18 books per student. Failure to have a school library open to all students and/or failure to have a credentialed School Librarian to run that library should be punishable by a immediate withdrawal of all Federal monies.

Study after study has shown that well-stocked, well-funded, well-organized school libraries staffed by a “highly qualified” School Librarian, or other similarly qualified credentialed individual, improve student reading scores, test scores, and literacy rates. All children have the right to read and to have access to materials that will help them grow as learners and as people. No Library = No Freedom to Learn.”

While I know the intent was noble and well-intended in creating this petition, petitions like these are often a slippery slope, so I’m going to be politically incorrect and offer a dissenting perspective.  We need to advocate for more than  being “properly staffed, open, and available for children every day” because truly effective school librarians and programs go beyond staffing, accessibility, and materials.  I assert that a “credentialed” school librarian and 18 books won’t guarantee an effective or relevant library program.  These criteria are a gross and superficial oversimplification of the complexity of cultivating meaningful library programs and the possibilities for school libraries in a learning community.  Plenty of schools have “credentialed” school librarians who are ineffective on many levels—pinning language to such a narrow term that unfortunately can’t equate “credentialed” with highly qualified is problematic.

It’s also a false premise  that either of those requirements will guarantee or help deliver an effective library program that is worth a public school losing federal monies/funding.  Here in Georgia, we have a state requirement that calls for every school library to be staffed by a certified school library media specialist [see specific rules requiring media center staffing here and here as well as state of Georgia code], but some school districts participating in the state IE Squared program (which among other things, gives districts more spending flexibility), like our neighboring Forsyth County District, have received waivers from the state that gave them permission to eliminate school librarians from a number of their elementary schools.  This example illustrates how districts will find ways to circumvent mandates when it serves their economic challenges or educational philosophy.  I hate to sound cynical, but in these economically-challenged times, I think it’s realistic to expect many states or school districts would seek waivers to such mandates or even worse, lower the bar for what it takes to be “credentialed” as a school library media specialist in that state.

I’d also rather have seen language in the petition that emphasized tools and mediums for learning, not just books—by privileging a requirement of 18 books, we continue to perpetuate and privilege the stereotype (or what grains of truth are in that stereotype, I wonder?) of the library as a book warehouse rather than the library as a place of learning.  As many of you know from your own state and regional accreditation agency mandates, requiring a certain number of books rarely results in funding for a rich, current collection (which should be more than just print for learners of all ages).  At my last high school, we met the now-defunct requirement for 10 books on paper, but guess what?  Because previous library staff was afraid to weed the collection regularly due to insufficient funding to purchase new and timely materials to replace the weeded materials, we had a collection with an average copyright date in the 1970s; this  phenomenon is sadly commonplace across the country.

Additionally, studies referenced in the language of the petition don’t actually show a definitive cause and effect between a “well-stocked, well-funded, well-organized school libraries staffed by a ‘highly qualified’ school librarian or other similarly qualified credentialed individual”  [what does “other similarly qualified credentialed individual” mean?], and the  improvement of “student reading scores, test scores, and literacy rates”.  While these popular and oft-referenced studies show correlation between the two, they do not show an direct actual cause and effect; to actually prove such would be exceedingly difficult as there are many variables in what contributes to academic achievement, and defining what counts as excellence  in these areas can even be debated.   While the reference of many of the popular studies has proven effective as a form of library advocacy in some states and districts, on the whole they have failed to convincingly sway stakeholders on a national scale.  Perhaps the time has come to concede that while these studies do yield useful data with important implications, they don’t have the definitive data decision makers are seeking.  As a profession, I hope we will  point to more data (qualitative) in addition to standardized test scores as a measure of the impact of school libraries on teaching and learning.  If there are quantitative or qualitative studies that show direct, unequivocal cause and effect of school library programs and student achievement, I would appreciate any links or publication information for such studies.

I do not mean any disrespect to those who think this petition will make a difference, but I would encourage us a profession to unpack the language and assumptions laden in the wording of this petition before we write off lack of participation in this petition as apathy or indifference.  I’d encourage each of us to contemplate what exactly this petition actually means and the values about school libraries implied before we market this petition as something that will actually ensure the highest quality of school library services because it most certainly doesn’t guarantee that.   We would all love a simple fix to the challenges our profession is facing, but the reality is that it’s going to take more than being federally mandated on paper for us to gain real and meaningful traction in being regarded as a relevant and necessary component of a successful school–that is the real elephant in the little red schoolhouse.  The challenge of changing perceptions about the role and value of school librarians and school library programs is not an easy endeavor as we try to position ourselves as learning specialists and teachers who are as valuable as any content area teacher–I think our time may be better spent engaging in some honest dialogue and open, candid critique about what is working and what is not as a profession in taking on this challenge rather than counting on a federal mandate to “save” us or our programs.  The mandate that will yield the most powerful and authentic impact we need to grow and sustain effective school library programs that contribute to school learning communities must ultimately come from the administrators, school board members, teachers, students, and parents we serve as that is where the true power of “buy in” lies, not in a federal mandate forced upon schools.