Traveling the country, imagining and creating brand new learning spaces with librarians and teachers and administrators, is about the coolest professional development opportunity I could have imagined.
So much of the work of this innovation and change for students is on the shoulders of librarians. As a principal I stated many times that our library was our heart as a school community. This isn’t a new notion but one that is worth repeating. All of our students access, use and often find their inspiration from libraries.
If you’re not sure of the work responsibilities of today's school librarian, take a look at the AASL, American Association of School Librarians “Standards for the 21st Century Learner.”
Standards and beliefs for 21st century librarians
From the AASL “Standards for the 21st Century Learner,” here is their description of what is essential. It is all-encompassing work:
"School libraries provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the resources and tools required for learning in a warm, stimulating, and safe environment. School librarians collaborate with others to provide instruction, learning strategies, and practice in using the essential learning skills needed in the 21st century."
The IFLA International Federation of Library Association and Institutions echoes these concepts and expands on the digital and technological access that school libraries provide. From the IFLA School Library Guidelines, here is their definition of a school library:
ISTE, International Society for Technology in Education Standards for teachers and technology coaches inform and support the work of librarians in providing a dedicated and accessible space for all. This work as a collaborative community now extends to spaces for making.
I’ve found great inspiration from Maker librarians Diana Redina and Laura Fleming, both of whom have written and shared about their experiences creating makerspaces in their libraries. Diana at the middle level and Laura at high school are creating spaces for all with purpose and vision. With these experienced makers new librarians provide excitement and inspiration as well.
From the Salisbury, NC school system, librarian Suzanne Crockett has written about creating a makerspace in her library to meet students' learning needs:
The first objective of CaTS (Create/Think/Share) Makerspace: ensure that making leads to learning. Cognitive capacity is seven or less bits of information at once; direct instruction expands capacity. And productive failure creates an “I can fix it!” attitude. These two concepts produce learning. Fixed maker stations, with low barriers to student creativity (LEGOs, domino racing), support “I can fix it!” and students can complete them during regular library periods. Flexible stations, such as electronics and robotics (different grant), require direct instruction. Projects can be started in the library, then transferred to classrooms for collaborative instruction with teachers . . . . Additionally, thinking and sharing are expected here. As older students become "experts" in certain projects, they will be offered opportunities to assist adults in modeling the projects to younger students.
Reflecting on recent professional development TechTerra training that I conducted, Suzanne shared with me: “So many trainings skip the "why we are doing this" and go straight to the "here's how to do it." I need someone to connect the dots for me, and you did. You need to know that your training has lit a fire under this old woman, and my principal has noticed! This past week 3-5 used Pic Collage and Educreations to document our Dr. Seuss week, and I'm having so much fun! I think the kids are, too.”
Suzanne, along with all the librarians of the RSS system, is creating a makerspace in her library to meet her students’ learning needs.
These are only a handful of the librarians, teachers and administrators who have taken on the challenge to create spaces for today’s students and for our students to come.
Below are photos showing some of the exciting and inspiring configurations of library makerspaces in Rowan-Salisbury schools.
I’m reflecting today on equity, innovation and digital access for all.
In March I had the honor of meeting with Denmark’s Minister for Children, Education and Gender Equality, Ellen Trane Nørby, with the Consul General of Denmark, Anne Dorte Riggelsen, and with members of the Danish Parliament. We met to discuss trends in U.S. Education. Our meeting focused on issues of equity and innovation and how countries consider these issues in making educational policies. We shared a global awareness of diversity, accountability and the challenge of providing educational services for refugees and immigrants.
The Consulate General of Denmark’s Office NYC
Today I read ISTE’s interview with the new U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. Secretary King is also focused on equity and digital access. He says “I was very pleased that our recently issued National Education Technology Plan focuses on advancing educational equity through technology. One of the most important aspects of technology in education is its ability to level the field of opportunity for students.” Secretary King shares the recognition, with Denmark and many nations, that education technology can level the playing field for students.
From the Minister’s car, the UN
My meetings in New York City included a visit to MS 88, a middle school in Brooklyn. MS 88 has been celebrated as a model for the city. As summarized in a sidebar in an Opinionator piece by Tina Rosenberg in The New York Times dated March 13, 2015, "Middle School 88 in Brooklyn is part of a broad evolution in teaching math, employing technology to provide each student with a personalized lesson."
With Denmark’s Minister for Children, Education and Gender Equality, Ellen Trane Nørby, and the Consul General of Denmark, Anne Dorte Riggelsen at MS 88 in Brooklyn, NY
As I watched the students, teachers and administrators of MS. 88 in action it was obvious that with a diverse student body they were doing the true work of innovation. With wide digital use at hand students collaborated, teachers coached, and administrators supported. A culture of equity was pervasive throughout the school building.
It was an honor to drive away from MS 88 and celebrate what is being achieved there, which is what as global educators what we are all seeking -- Innovation leading to engagement and learning.
The Consul General of Denmark, Anne Dorte Riggelsen with inspiring MS 88 students