library future

This is how you build the library of the future

With an ever-changing job description and a library space where books coexist with 3D printers, a teacher librarian focuses on the four C’s.

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)

Real-World Lessons in 3D

As the students’ 3D design skills are improving, so are mine!

To realize the impact on student learning we are looking to achieve, I strive to integrate the classroom curriculum into many activities and projects, including the 3D printer whenever I can. It’s a creative challenge that requires me to think outside of the box with my instruction, like when I used the printer to help our 4th -graders learn about energy and electrical circuits. With the assistance of a parent volunteer who is a mechanical engineer, I was able to create and implement lessons that allowed students to design, print, and assemble their own working flashlight, complete with a battery and an LED.

Another project we tackled involved 5th-graders conducting research on noteworthy people of history. To demonstrate what they learned, the majority of the students chose to design a 3D object that symbolized the individual they chose. Offering students a hands-on way to “show what they know” kept them highly engaged and created an authentic and relevant digital learning opportunity.

When working on this task, some students chose to conduct their research using another library tool that we have at our disposal: our digital library, myON, which is available to them through their tablets and mobile devices. Every book provides our kids with additional support through audio text-to-speech, whether they are reading for a class assignment or for enjoyment.

Looking forward to the upcoming school year, I’m hoping to work with 3rd-grade students on designing a working compass. Our 5th-graders will choose between making a model of a solar-powered car or, pending principal approval, designing their own fidget spinner.

Independent Learning with Digital Libraries

Though many libraries are now doubling as makerspaces, it’s a delight to know that our students still come to us excited about finding something they’re anxious to read. The difference is how the format for reading has changed.

With easy, mobile sharing of digital books and graphic novels through myON, we’ve observed our students not only highly engaged when reading independently, but reading collaboratively with a buddy or within a group. We hear amazing dialogue and rich discussions as they share their favorite books between their devices. These moments demonstrate that our students are beginning their journey towards reading independence and lifelong learning.

While I don’t know what our job descriptions as librarians and media specialists will look like in the future, I know that technology will play an integral role in our ever-evolving profession. I also know that students will always need to know how to think critically, problem-solve, collaborate with others, and communicate—for both job-related and personal reasons.

Librarians and media specialists will continue to be instructional partners who not only help students understand how to best use the latest technology tools, but also provide options and support in determining which tool is best for gathering, curating, and using information, as well as effective ways to communicate and synthesize ideas. Educators strive to instill a lifelong love of learning in their students.

Today’s librarians and media specialists are modeling and implementing technology-enhanced lessons to achieve that goal.

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