Sunday, January 21, 2018

Changing the Meaning of Library


There is a lot out there about how libraries need to change to stay relevant and meet the needs of their patrons.  Most of this revolves around makerspaces and digital literacy.  Both of these things are important and I'll be honest, I went into this school year with a plan for each grade level that enters the library to have guaranteed experiences in research, making, coding, and digital citizenship.  I just don't think that this is enough to not only meet the needs of our students, but to prepare them for the future.

First let me say, that I think that makerspaces are invaluable.  This is particularly true if your school does not have a STEM focus or incorporates STEM (or STEAM) into classroom experiences.  Makerspaces provide students with the opportunity to tinker, and work through the design process.  Both which require students to use an array of critical thinking skills and creativity.  

The same is true for digital literacy.  Today, more than ever, students need to learn critical digital literacy skills to navigate the world.  These should definitely be taught as part of balanced literacy in a classroom.  And I know that the reality is that this is difficult for a variety of reasons.  

So it makes sense to have the library be the space where STEM and digital literacy are experienced and taught.  It definitely makes a lot of sense in an elementary library where chances are, classes are scheduled and students come to you once a week for 30 - 60 minutes a week.  You have to do something with them in that time that goes beyond read alouds and library skills.  And I know that many teaching library media courses will stress the importance of these things and the need to ensure that the students going through your space will have particular guaranteed experiences.  But for me, I think there is more that can be done.  

For as long as I can remember - since I became an educator 20 some odd years ago - I have thought that we as educators can provide our students with the opportunity to do whatever they want when they are with us and still teach them critical skills.  For example, I envision students in the library and some are wearing VR headsets to go to China or get a deeper understanding of the human anatomy.  Some may be on iPads or desktops using databases or employing search skills to get information about how to design a hover-board or run a zoo.  And I still see some off somewhere else taking a part a gaming system to modify it to meet a specific need they have.  

I believe that this can happen.  I believe that even with all of this happening, I can still teach them crucial digital literacy skills and the design process.  I believe that I can teach them these skills on demand, when it is most relevant to them.  I know that this means a lot of initial work on my part.  I know that this type of freedom can be overwhelming for students as well and that I will need to teach into this.  I'm ready for that challenge and look forward to learning a lot.  I will be sharing all that I learn here.  The good. The bad.  The indifferent.