Final Vision of the Tech-Sum Being Greater Than Its Parts

I will not lie, putting this together has been challenging. Considering where I started, a goodly portion of developing a final vision, specifically for the incorporation of technology, for our school library learning commons (SLLC) hinges on a great many factors. Not the least of which is developing a leadership plan for incorporating technology and taking steps to ensure that it is implemented effectively. No matter how glossy or great technology or its applications are, if no one is interested in using it, it goes nowhere.

Our school has really had consistent internet for a few years. Until very recently, teachers were hard-lining into the network via Ethernet cords into their district issued laptops for the hopes that they would get a consistent connection. Wireless was not even a thing worth considering until they upped the connections through the school and each classroom got its own node, with the SLLC getting two. So, it is only now, with consistent internet and Wi-Fi capacity that I really think that we can implement some of the technology that will make our learning commons and school more effective in what it is supposed to deliver.When considering how a Final Vision for the implementation of technology would look for our library, the people using it would have to be the first consideration. At this stage, so much is out there and available on so many different platforms for so many usages, to make everything available all at once would be overwhelming and, no doubt, see all efforts grind to a halt as people freeze in the face of such a myriad of choices. I would also argue that committing to one thing wholeheartedly would turn many off utilizing the SLLC, as those already implementing technology have invested time developing it within their own educational context and may be resistant to learn a new form or application.

Therefore, the vision of our library and the implementation of technology needs to be considerate of all of those involved and should be delivered as a multifaceted approach. Each portion presented in a carefully considered and presented way so as not to overwhelm or undermine its own potential effectiveness. Time is another thing to be considered, both in the investment of presenting and learning of a given piece of technology.

The following are a series of items to be incorporated into a vision for our school library learning commons. While on the surface it may seem like there are a lot of items and no particular item is delved into too deeply, it is important to note where we have recently arrived from. As a school, we have avoided implementing technology or relying on it because of network reliability issues. In the course of only a couple of years, many of our staff do not feel like they have been able to keep up with technology, or, as hinted at above, developed their own work arounds for presenting their particular area of the curriculum. With such a numerous and inconsistent use of technology, bringing the focus back to a unified virtual space and physical place will be no mean feat.

In a way, this assignment is as timely as it is daunting. The coming year will be the first of 18 that I will find myself out of the classroom, with the majority of my time specifically as a teacher-librarian (there are a couple of blocks spent otherwise, but I will save those for a separate post). This will take me to non-enrolling status, allowing me the time that was previously not available to collaborate and co-teach with colleagues. Regarding this change of delivery, we are taking a huge first step in promoting the SLLC as something beyond the traditional library and into a flexible environment, staffed by flexible people. We are no longer adherent to bells and blocks, able to collaborate and plan with colleagues when it is convenient for them. As far as encouraging others to take risks and implement new technology, knowing that someone is there and available to back them up is sure to be incentive.

The second prong in the effort to implement and utilize new technology will be given direction from the level of the professionals who are to be using it. As chair of our Professional Development Committee, I have already put the call out for ideas and interests that members of our staff may have in the coming school year. Both of our Digital Literacy teachers are on the committee, which should provide a further depth of knowledge and understanding of the applications of technology into the classroom. There is an interested in using technology, and the development between professionals around this should be accessed. Professional development days provide time by which to learn and experiment with the knowledge of others, our school is implementing flex and collaborative times, so with conscientious effort of direction, our Pro-D Committee should be able to allow interested professionals access their expertise by coming together and not continue to operate in technological isolation.

A point that should be raised here is that our district has committed fully to Microsoft 365. While there are some drawbacks to this approach, it does mean that everyone associated with the district is on the same platform. It would be impossible to map a final vision without mentioning the power of accessing the cloud or sharing through file systems, such as OneDrive. Class notebooks on OneNote and real-time collaborative editing, allow for fantastic possibilities, not the least of which would be a paperless classroom. There is opportunity to do real collaboration, between devices, provide authentic formative assessment and follow progress through an assignment, even one that is worked on at home. Teachers and students usually only scratch at the surface of what any of these programs can do and without guidance, will continue to use only the basics of any application. Referring to the points above, with the right mix of professional development opportunities and accessing a TL on a regular basis, classrooms could shift far more easily and fluidly to a new model of learning, fully opening the potential within devices and web applications. This model is not one where the teacher becomes less busy due to technology, but one that is far more productive.

Research connects to the plan of bringing everyone together through technological tools in the SLLC. What used to be a series of subject specific citation “find and fill” paper worksheets that many teachers relied on the Teacher-Librarian (TL) to provide and teach, can now be found through our informational databases and web-apps, such as Zotero. Showing students where they can find good, vetted information through our district subscribed databases and using their provided citation tool has been a time saver and accomplishes what the majority of colleagues are looking for through the citation process; that students find accurate, relevant sources and credit them. For our senior, academically minded AP/IB students with longer assignments, something like Zotero to keep track of what they have researched and come across can help them by separating into subject areas, sub-folders and can remain with them through their post-secondary pursuits.

To further consider something that resides with in the realm of the SLLC and under the purview of the TL, our library management system is something that needs be included as a part of my efforts in creating a final vision for developing our library culture. Using Follett Destiny Discover, students can use their school-based log-in information to access our library and district collection of materials from anywhere to search and research. Familiarity with our library management system will allow students to renew materials, put holds on them, write and access reviews, and request inter-library loans from other schools in the district. A tool that is already being integrated in our school is the Collections option that is offered through Destiny Discover. Students and teachers can curate their own collection of materials from our library, the web, videos and documents that relate to a topic of interest, then share this collection out on any number of levels. I plan to include an orientation to Destiny Discover for all of next years grade 9s so that they have an opportunity to experience their library, its materials and utilize a fantastic tool over the course of their full four years at our school.

If an SLLC is to have a virtual space as well as a physical space, we have a long way to go. Again, in efforts to not over-commit to a particular virtual platform or direction of how this virtual space is to be handled, my vision includes introducing a number of elements over a period of time. I have mentioned the library management system for use at school and home. Our library also has a team twitter account so that multiple members can post to it. I hope to find a way to link this account with the school mobile app, so that news and information can be shared in this form. I intend to allow this blog to handshake with a school-based, district blog, to delve into items of SLLC interest more thoroughly. This blog will be set-up through our library web-site, which is already there and pictured below, but needs to be updated and brought into line better with our school website so that it can be accessed by a wider range of users, and not just members of our school.Presenting various forms of media is also something that will move us toward having an increased virtual presence. Inspired by a particular course instructor, I have recently created an unlisted YouTube channel with the idea of posting videos to assist with accessing various web tools and library features. There is not always time to learn these things during school hours and many are more comfortable with learning tech skills at home, so having this as an option may increase user access to a variety of elements offered through our district and school technologies. Evidence from my first video leaves no doubt that a lot of work is needed on production value, but, as with everything, it is a start:

Our SLLC has recently secured some audio recording equipment, so there are plans to bring in podcasting and recording to our space. Wonderful things have been done with recording assignments, second language participation, book talks, and podcasts and I would love to bring the technology to the teachers and students that would be interested in accessing this as an additional tool.

Finally, the people component. Our usage in the past year has gone up dramatically with an increase of TL time and extended hours. Looking forward to next year, the SLLC becoming more organized with the same amount of TL time, but less bodies and an increase in library-assistant hours, we should be hosting a larger number of events, clubs and activities in our space. Being the 21st Century, any club coming through the SLLC is sure to bring with it a technological component, be it videos, gaming, or various forms of communication between club members. Being familiar enough with any of these components will allow for the SLLC staff to assist and contribute to these groups utilizing the space for a wide variety of purposes.

I cannot see my final vision for our library as a single thing, item or artifact from this course, but a combination of elements discovered from LIBE 477, as well as from the beginning of the TL diploma. To develop and change our library to a School Library Learning Commons, there must be a number of technology projects run jointly that will be evaluated at regular periods, so successes can be gauged and priorities reallocated if need be. Moving forward with only one aspect of a final vision for our SLLC would not be true in considering the needs of all levels of our users and this vision is an attempt to include all.

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