All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Embracing technology, ironically, one book at a time...

 I may be bragging, but here at Seekonk High School we have an excellent Media Specialist.  You know, that position that used to be called a Librarian.  Her name is Mrs. Suzanne Larson and from wearing antlers during D.E.A.R. week (more on this in a little while) to tracking library usage for the next NEASC visit, she really goes out of her way to assist teachers and students with research and technology integration.  In fact, she has even helped me on multiple occasions.  It only takes a short talk with her to make me start asking, what am I doing with technology, what is our school doing with technology, and more importantly what could we be doing with technology?

Every week our librarian (or media specialist) is embracing technology in ever new and impressive ways.  She:
·         helps teachers with research,
·         has implemented a pilot with the software Turnitin to help reduce instances of plagiarism through education rather than consequence,
·         is an active member of the high school technology committee,
·         has been instrumental in securing new hardware for teachers’ classrooms,
·         updates the school website,
·         increased the library’s multi-media collections, and
·         has and continues to instruct teachers and students alike in many new uses and apps for the iPads.

In fact, I can still see her on parent teacher conference night.  She was moving her iPad cart down the hallway, stopping at every line of parents, and having them fill out an electronic survey while they waited so that the school had more data with which to inform discussion and decisions.  This is not quite the vision one has when confronted with the title Librarian.  All of this being said, I was struck by her ironic solution to the latest of issues she is addressing; increasing literacy by getting students to read more.

We have an increased amount of Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) weeks this year in an effort to increase student’s exposure to reading for pleasure and interest.  Here is where the fusion of new and old comes into play.  To increase participation, the Librarian has instituted a raffle.  Each student gets one entry each day they read.  Typically, entry tickets would cause many to shudder at the amount of paper needed or “trees killed.”  Therefore, the library decided to conserve by cutting up and utilizing catalogue cards.  Remember these things that used to live in large filing cabinets with tiny drawers?  Most students today do not.  As with all raffles, this one also begs the question:  What do I win?  Well, in keeping with the true spirit of literacy, it had to be something that increased reading.  The problem was that students would also have to view the prize as worthwhile.  The answer…that’s right, a Kindle.  So, it goes something like this:  we are trying to get students to read more.  Therefore, we cut up card catalogue cards to enter them into a contest for reading “dead tree” books and award them with an electronic device for…yes…reading!  When asked about this plan, our librarian explained the difficulty in keeping enough resources available in enough mediums to continuously engage students.  All I could think of throughout a recent conversation with her was that our Librarian turned Media Specialist was now turning quasi chef and attempting to provide a buffet (her word) for a very discriminating clientele.

In all seriousness, however she is viewed or labeled, our Librarian gets the idea that students need different mediums based on moods or requirements if they are to stay engaged.  The best aspect of this realization is that Mrs. Larson does not stop there and by example shows us all that neither should we.  Her answer is to show students how to blend various resources (print and audio book for example) based upon their current desire.  As stated by Mrs. Larson, “I know it sounds trite, but it’s a matter of hitting them where they are…”
I always try to learn from every encounter.  This one has reinforced the idea that we don’t need to change everything we are doing to reach today’s technology savvy/addicted students as much as we need to blend the good “old” with the possibilities of the “new.”  The question is: how are we doing this instead of just talking about it?

Of course, what else would I expect from a conversation with someone who names their copier Dewey; regardless of how many students do not “get it.”

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