When looking towards the future of education and instruction, hardware will not be the catalyst for change. The people behind the technology will be the ones who transform student learning. Media specialists operating within the demands of 21st-century innovation find themselves tasked with the responsibility not only to be as tech-savvy as possible, but to tap into their creativity to create an inspiring library learning environment. The 4 C’s (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) will drive our pioneering approach to developing the libraries of the future.

As teachers, today’s librarians and media specialists bring a valuable understanding of the potential that both information and technology have to support an effective learning environment. Innovative librarians tend to be at the forefront of identifying, modeling, and implementing the latest technologies in ways that allow students and teachers to see and garner the benefits.

While innovation is often associated with the latest gadget or software, it doesn’t always equate to a high-tech solution. More important is a strong foundation for the approach to learning.

The four C’s encourage us to be thoughtful in our projects, striving to embed instruction within assignments that are authentic and have real-life relevance for students. Collaborating with classroom or content-area teachers and designing creative project-based learning opportunities to tie in information-seeking, problem-solving, and communication can extend and promote learning in powerful ways.

As a full-time teacher librarian, I teach technology in a specials rotation at High Plains Elementary in Englewood, CO. My instruction delivers a combination of information literacy skills and technology skills.

At High Plains, we are gradually bringing makerspace elements into our traditional library setting, starting with a 3D printer. When we first acquired the 3D printer, there was quite a learning curve on my part. Before I could offer it as a lesson tool for our kids, I had to first learn how to use the printer myself. This involved not only figuring out how to use and instruct on a 3D design tool, but how to teach more creatively with projects that students would find meaningful and authentic.

(Next page: Real-world lessons in 3D; independent learning with digital libraries)

About the Author:

Karen Connors has been a teacher librarian at High Plains Elementary in Englewood, Colorado, for 12 years. Previously a 5th-grade teacher for five years in Albuquerque, NM, she attended the school librarianship graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She can be reached at Kconnors2@cherrycreekschools.org.