Future Ready Librarians Stand Up

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When I started my position as an Instructional Technology Specialist in Indian Prairie School District, I would never have guessed that four years later I would have the opportunity to write a blog post in honor of our librarians…yet here I am. What my boss at the time didn’t know, and my fellow librarians still probably don’t know, is that my one of my greatest career passions was to be in a position to support librarians.  Having been a former Library Media Center Director in the district, I know first hand how vital the role is to school’s  culture. I loved being an LMC Director.  I loved the chance to use technology in new ways that could transform how we educate students.  I loved watching kids come alive through literature. However, I always had a nagging and lingering thought in my mind. The Library is even so much more.  The Library is THE PLACE.  The place in which learners grow to love reading, to acquire knowledge through their own inquiry and self- discovery.  The library is the HUB of the school.  The librarian is central and essential to it all.  The librarian is an instructional leader partnering with teachers to help all students succeed.. How could I help spread the word?  When my boss told me she would like me to work closely with our librarians and support them and lead them through the transformational change that was coming….my dream came true.  As I sat a year later with a member of our district senior leadership,  I told her, “Our librarians are an untapped resource”.  When my new boss came in and taught us all that in order to grow, we had to become vulnerable and accept the change and transform…I knew it would happen.  Timing is everything.  Today, four years later, I can honestly say that our librarians are helping to lead the transformational change happening in our district.  Each and every one of our librarians have chosen to STAND UP.

Standing up isn’t easy.  It takes trust. It takes commitment to the cause.  It takes Time. Trust started the summer we did a workshop on Making Spaces in Your LMC.  We would Dream Big.  We would be Bold.  We would be Visionary.  At least that was the plan.  Half way through that workshop I realized we were collectively getting stuck in what appeared to be so many roadblocks in our way.  We had to make a choice.  A choice to let the roadblocks stop us, or move around the roadblocks.  Anyone in education can easily make a laundry list of roadblocks.  We could.  Or we could chose Stand Up.  We did make that list though, then we put the list in an envelope, and we sealed it.  We chose to Stand Up.  That was only the beginning.  As of today,  our middle and elementary school libraries  have been supported financially from the district level in order to start the physical space transformation.  Had we not chosen to Stand Up three years ago and Dream, be Bold and be Visionary…would we have been ready?

In order to be Future Ready we must chose to Stand Up.  I am honored and privileged to see what it looks like and sounds like when librarians chose to  Stand Up.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who has her eye on that one student who never talks but comes into the library to get book and she chooses to start a conversation.  That conversation would lead to helping that student find the book that he was looking for…and through that book that child would find his voice.  If that librarian hadn’t chosen to Stand Up and empower that child through literature, would he have found his voice?  Standing Up looks like a librarian who has embraced the makerspace movement although fearful of the unknown.  Had she not chosen to Stand Up she would have missed hearing students say, “ I never want to leave the library.  This is my place”.  She would have missed listening to the dialogue between two students as they communicated, collaborated, used critical thinking skills and created.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who finds a way to let all voices be heard. Whether that be by bringing in an author that she knows students can identify with, providing a safe place for students to explore their own interests and create a 3D prototype of their invention that will change the world, or simply to provide a safe place for students to just Be Still.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who takes the risk and invites a teacher to partner with him as he brings relevance and real world experiences to students as they engage in their course content through inquiry.  Standing Up sounds like librarians stepping out of their comfort zone and telling their story through a blog.  This is that blog.

This blog was started as a way for each of our librarians to tell their story.  Each and every story matters.  This blog post is dedicated to our LMC Directors in IPSD 204.   You have each chosen to be like the little engine that could….you chose a growth mindset.  You chose a “I think I CAN” attitude.  And TOGETHER….we CAN and WE DO.

I am privileged and honored to walk alongside each of you as we continue down the Future Ready path.  What you do Matters.  YOU matter.  YOU are essential.

by Laura Nylen

 

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My MakerSpace Shift

Contributed by Dawn Vieira, elementary librarian

Makerspaces… it’s all the buzz in the library world right now. All around school and public librarians are finding ways to reinvent their space to give their patrons the opportunity to create. Sometimes it can be via technology such as Makey Makey or a 3-D printer, but it can also be just the chance to tinker with Legos or recycled “trash” like toilet paper rolls, cardboard and toothpicks.

I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to develop a wonderful MakerSpace/Tech Corner in my LMC at White Eagle Elementary through a very generous donation from my school’s PTA. With the funds I was able to purchase Dash robots, Spheros, OSMOs and LittleBits. The students absolutely love interacting with these devices and learning more about coding, circuits and more. The Tech Corner was always full of students laughing, sharing and learning. I soon found, however, that although it was a “Makerspace,” my students weren’t always making something. Yes, they were “making” programs via blocks of code for Dash and Sphero to follow. Yes, they were “making” tangrams and words with OSMO, but there was something missing. That’s when I realized my Makerspace was missing another component, what I call the Creation Station.

At the Creation Station side of my makerspace there is absolutely no technology. It is an area where students have the chance to explore various STEM and STEAM provided monthly activities and to just create. Legos, Squigz, Zoinks and blocks call out, “Let’s be an architect! Build something with me.” Rainbow Looms, weaving looms, and bins of yarn shout, “Interested in fashion or design? Make something with me!” Straws, scissors, paper, tape, crayons, cardboard and more call out, “Be creative! Think outside the box and explore with me.”

I first opened the Creation Station side of my MakerSpace in the fall. At this point, my Tech Corner had been up and running since January of last year. I was completely blown away by the shift in my makerspace. It was inspiring. The makerspace had a new purpose for many students, the chance to create in a different way. I overhead statements like, “Look what I made.” “How should we do this?” “What do you think about this?” and “I can’t wait to try another way tomorrow.” I couldn’t believe the engagement and incredible amount of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication (4Cs of Education) that I was witnessing as students challenged themselves to just create. Don’t get me wrong, the Tech Corner was still a very popular, buzzing corner of my LMC, but a whole new set of students, along with my Tech Corner regulars, stormed to the Creation Station. It was a makerspace shift.

So, as you begin or continue your journey of creating a MakerSpace in your library, remember this: A MakerSpace is simply a place for students to explore and learn through creation, be it through technology or recycled cardboard. Embrace it! Encourage it! Make it!

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Creating a Sustainable MakerSpace with Rasperry Pi Club

Contributed by Lynn Domek, NBCT and elementary librarian

This year I wanted to create a sustainable MakerSpace in the library to be used at any time of the day for drop in students and whole classes.  I took into account the President’s new initiative, “Computer Science for All,” to empower all American students from kindergarten through high school to learn computer science and to be active citizens in our technology-driven world. From “order makes sense” to inquiry-based thought processes in the existing curriculum, collaboration and creativity could be extended to the 750 students in our K-5 building.

Our students at Welch Elementary had been exposed to LittleBits circuits and Dash and Dot robots via participation in the Illinois State Library MakeIt@YourLibrary program.  This exposure brought much excitement and collaboration to the Welch community.  With the addition of Makey-Makey and Osmo, we were on our way to having a sustainable MakerSpace.  But I was looking for something more.

So, I took the plunge and wrote a grant that was funded by IPEF that introduced SnapCircuits and Raspberry Pi into our MakerSpace.  I first learned about Raspberry Pi from following a former colleague on Twitter.  He had mentioned in a tweet that students in a Syrian refugee camp were programming with Raspberry Pi. What was this credit-card sized computer?  I looked into it over the summer and discovered MIT’s Scratch programming language and many resources for educators on the Raspberry Pi website.
I created an after-school Raspberry Pi club that lasted for six weeks.  I then added the Raspberry Pis into the MakerSpace.  I was amazed at how much 5th grade students could do regarding programming by utilizing Scratch and Python after a brief introduction.  I am looking forward to finding future computer science opportunities for Welch students and am currently considering purchasing a Kano computer and coding kit.

The Genius of Genius Hour

Contributed by Donna Kouri, elementary librarian

This year our elementary school implemented Genius Hour for students in grades 1-5. We hold it three times a week for 40 minutes each day. All students have it at the same time which has been a wonderful, although unexpected, gift.

During Genius Hour, students work on a project that is of interest to them. It is their chance to explore something they are passionate about but that may not be covered in class. The only requirements are that the project must have a research component and there must be some type of presentation where students share their project with others. 

Failure is fine during genius hour, a philosophy that aligns perfectly with the new Creation Station that our LMC put in place this year. Failure is a point to start, not to end, and even projects that do not work out the first time can be tweaked and altered and lessons can be learned.

The LMC bustles during Genius Hour in the best possible way. Students drop in to use all sorts of items from the Creation Station. They may come to use technology, to hook into the collaboration table to project their computer onto a larger screen where all members of the group can view it, to film in front of the green screen, or to work on building a project that supports their research.

Every day there is something different happening. The only constant is that the library is full of students thinking, problem solving, creating and learning.

One benefit of having genius hour at the same time is the cross grade teaching that occurs. Fourth grade students came in to work on stop motion animation. I had not done this before and offered to help them research and learn how to do it. I also told them that students in fifth grade were already creating stop motion animation projects and might be able to teach them. That is exactly what happened. Students are learning from each other. My role as the LMC director is clearly not to teach them how to do their projects. Often what they come up with is something of which I have limited knowledge. My role is to facilitate their learning and experimentation and to help them answer their own questions. I may help them refine a search, but they are the ones that are doing the searching.

Genius hour has been, quite frankly, genius. We remodeled our LMC to make it Future Ready but, as we all know, that does not make a difference if students are not using it for the intended purpose. Genius Hour has helped bring us closer to our goal of being a Future Ready Library and empowering our students to be Future Ready as well.

 

bloxels

Students use the Bloxels app to create a video game. They quickly became experts at this app, and willingly taught others how to use it.

 

 

girls

These girls love gymnastics. They used the green screen to film themselves talking about gymnastics and added clips of themselves executing the various tricks. This was their first experience using the green screen, and they worked in WeVideo to create their final presentation. 

spark

These students loved using the Sphero Sprk, so they researched and learned more about the device. They wanted to know how far away from the Sphero they could stand and still control it. 

 

Providing Opportunities for Students in a Creator Space

Contributed by Blaire Ranucci, elementary librarian

We have been very fortunate in my K-5 building to have received funding to launch a Creator Space. What began as a set of maker resources from our district (robots, osmos, makey makeys, etc) has expanded into a place of exploration in my building.

To fully get the idea of our Creator Space, you have to picture a building with an atrium style library. We have one designated wall and hallways with classroom off of them on three sides. In one of those hallway areas, we have created our Space. When our Creator Space was in the idea phase, the Principal, LMC Director and Technology Liaison worked together to determine how to spend district and grant funds to best meet our needs. We repurposed tables and storage to provide the most ease of access and space for the students. A committee of interested teachers have worked extensively from the idea phase until now to sort through manipulatives from previous math curricula, unpack new kits and supplies, organize storage space and create new challenges across all STEAM areas.

But all the ideas, money and searching through blogs, Pinterest, professional journals, etc does not make for a successful space.

What makes the space successful is the commitment of the Principal, teachers and parents to changing the mindset in a school.

In our building, interested 3rd-5th graders could sign up for Recess Creator Club, which allows them to explore, create and keep projects from week to week. There were no restrictions on which interested students could participate, only that they regularly attend to keep their spot. We have had students across all academic and accommodation levels chose to participate and find success. Not all students thrive during recess, but this has provided another outlet for them. In addition, each grade level has designated time each week to come down. Teachers send students on a rotation, so all students have exposure to the rotating activities and materials that are in the space. Students who are normally pulled out of the classroom many times a day will still have the opportunity to participate with their peers..

It is a work in progress, but this year has been so exciting, and has sparked something in many students who do not always shine. Creator Space has been such an opportunity to add to the definition of lifelong learning and has enhanced what the library can offer a school.

Ethan’s Efforts Making a Difference in our MakerSpace

Contributed by Natalie Hoyle Ross, NBCT and elementary librarian

It is not unusual to see a librarian advocating for the LMC’s MakerSpace; however, it is quite another to have a student take on that role.

Our biggest advocate of our Spring Brook MakerSpace is Ethan. When Ethan realized we were featuring one of his favorite pieces of technology, Osmos, he was thrilled!

However, his idea of a MakerSpace was that the area would be in use the entire school day.  He was disappointed to see that some days the MakerSpace was not being used at all.   It was at this time that Ethan set a personal goal to make our MakerSpace more popular!

His first step was creating an enticing public announcement to lure students to use the MakerSpace.  By making the announcement from the perspective of the Osmo, he explained to the entire school that the Osmos were lonely and wanted to have someone play with them.  Almost in a commercial like manner, he explained how much fun Osmos were and how all Spring Brook students should try them out today! 

Another tactic Ethan used was to excite teachers.  He approached teachers and asked them when they planned to sign up for a time to use our MakerSpaceIn a further effort to spread the word about the MakerSpaces, Ethan designed and hung posters outside the teachers lounge and in the main office, encouraging teachers to become interested in Osmos which is leading to more interest in all the devices.

Since then, Ethan himself has taken on a teaching role.  Ethan used his valuable reward time to help other students become mathematicians through using Osmo Numbers and tangram apps.  

With Ethan‘s help, our MakerSpace has become a hub in our school with frequent visitors and a lot of buzz.   

Building Instructional Partnerships through Library MakerSpaces

Contributed by Jill DeFarno, elementary librarian

One of the reasons I made the leap from the comforts of my classroom to the LMC was that I wanted a change and a challenge.  Little did I know that I was going to get a lot of both.

In the past two and a half years I have learned that the library world is dynamic and on the forefront of new ideas.  When I started taking classes for my library endorsement we discussed MakerSpaces.  I thought that as I became more familiar with the LMC I’d eventually incorporate one into the library.  However, with the generosity of the district’s education foundation I found myself with a handful of robots, littleBits and the task of creating a MakerSpace in the LMC this year.  I was given the flexibility from building and district leadership to make this space and the tools at our disposal work for the students and staff at my school.   And that is what teachers and I are figuring out every day.

I’m very fortunate that my staff trusts me and is willing to collaborate.  I meet with each team at least once a month and we’ve been brainstorming ways to incorporate the maker materials into student learning.   For example, the fourth grade teachers wanted to do a book report.  We decided to have the kids make book trailers.  When we did this last year I did several whole group lessons.  This year we divided the kids up into smaller groups and I worked with them in the MakerSpace area to create the trailers.  It was a much better experience and product.  I was able to work with all of the kids and they had the opportunity to help each other.  It gave me a chance to teach them digital citizenship skills, like citing images, through one on one conversations. In the small groups, students also had the freedom to work at their own pace and ask questions based on what they were doing, not what I was teaching.  Facilitating a student-centered learning opportunity gave me many more chances to talk to students about their books and get a better idea of their reading interests.  This unit worked out so well that my next collaboration with this team of teacher is to create stop-motion videos of Greek myths.  The MakerSpace has led to more opportunities to collaborate with teachers because it is out in the open. As teachers pass through, they stop to see what the classes are doing and are asking me to plan similar opportunities for their students.

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Students collaborate on book trailers in the library MakerSpace.

Finally, I was awarded a grant of over $1400 to create a maker section of books in the library collection.  This will allow students who come to the space to checkout and read books at their level and learn a variety of maker concepts.  The kids are so excited to be in the space and have the opportunity to learn new things.  It is amazing to see the students work together to  find success with a task.  I’m not sure what the future holds for the LMC, but I know it will be exciting and challenging and I can’t wait!

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Maker books are a hit with our students!