Monday, December 12, 2016

Thing 32: Emerging Tech & Scanning the Horizon

What a treat to be able to explore this topic now rather than at the end of the workshop like I had in past "tracks"!  And what better way to spend a "snow day" at home than by reading and reflecting on several of the interesting readings posted within this assignment!

So far, I've read the two IDEA WATCH articles posted by Carolyn Foote, "What Does the Next Generation School Library Look Like" by Luba Vangelova, and the 2016 NMC Horizon Report.  It was interesting to see the areas of overlap between these four "reports". 

The trend that seems most prevalent is that the idea of the old quiet research/book warehouse is long gone, replaced by more of a "learning commons" space for interactive collaboration and project-based learning with an emphasis on student-centered exploration, innovation, and creativity.  Interestingly, Vangelova described the transformation of a high school library in Charlottesville, VA where the physical collection was down-sized, the shelving reduced and made mobile, and where every nook and cranny was devoted to assorted student-centered purposes including a technology lab, a hackerspace, a makerspace, music labs, and lounge areas.  Although exciting to be sure, the idea of fully embracing that style of library is somewhat daunting to me, and probably less realistic for my elementary crowd, so it was reassuring to read Foote talk about another trend for libraries to create spaces for students to "unplug" and reflect in her article, "Far Beyond Makerspaces".  I thought it was funny how although this type of space is not new to libraries, we can make it feel new by branding it with a trendy new name like, "Unplug Zone" or "Digital Escape Space".

As for how these trends, visions, and concepts fit into my specific world - Well, I'm certainly right on board with some of it - especially the idea of creating an inviting space for student collaboration and exploration.  I see grades K-6 on a fixed schedule 6-day rotation for isolated instruction, and I rely heavily on the Empire State Fluency Continuum to guide my lesson planning.  From the earliest grades, I foster a community of engaged learners where I very much act as both instructor and mentor, and where students are encouraged to teach and learn from each other in a safe and respectful environment.  I refuse to teach anything that is not "authentic" and with actual application and purpose.  Students are sucked in by my own enthusiasm and willingness to learn from them.  I strive to validate all of their contributions and ideas, and I willingly engage in the learning and activities right along with my students.  

By 5th grade, I have covered many important topics in Digital Citizenship, especially in regard to using digital and print resources responsibly.   I have all students using NoodleTools to organize their research online and I engage the students in fun and meaningful research projects that involve collaboration between myself, teachers, and outside community experts on our chosen topic.  For example, last year in 5th grade we created a fabulous project that I titled, "The Struggle for Equality" that enhanced student understanding of government while at the same time allowed them to explore somewhat over-looked topics in American history including the Japanese Internment Camps, Jewish discrimination, the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and so much more.  In addition to the teachers and myself, we included a professor from the Albany School of Law (who is also a parent of 2 students, although neither in 5th grade at the time!) and several of his students.  It was AMAZING!  The kids couldn't believe what they were finding out, I couldn't believe how thoughtful they were in their thinking, and it was a fabulous moment where we were able to bring ALL the pieces together in one perfect project - we had teachers, the librarian, outside experts, and parents involved. 

I think in many ways I'm hitting a lot of the big trends as described in the NMC report, especially as it highlighted "Collaborative" and "Deeper Learning" approaches and "Authentic" learning.  Areas where I need to grow involve being more open to makerspaces and unstructured student exploration. Being part-time myself and having no designated support staff makes the idea of implementing such programs somewhat daunting, but not all together impossible.  Right now I teach 4 blocks with no lunch or prep, so supervision would definitely be an issue - although many descriptions of these spaces indicate how little supervision there is.  Also, K-6 does not have study halls or free periods, so it could only be an extracurricular offering for now.

So much to think about!  But I'm always scanning that horizon and I'm open to trying anything :-)


  1. Wow, so impressed with what you're doing. That 5th grade project is fabulous. Those kids will never forget that, and hopefully they'll keep that enthusiasm too. Really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you.

  2. I'd love to know more about your Equality project!

    1. Can you share your email address with me? It'd be easier to "chat" that way :-)

  3. Noodle Tools tweeted this post! :)