Welcome to Los Angeles, and a huge thank you to the Committee for planning an organized conference with diverse programming! Even though I’ve only been involved in AISL for 4 years, every time I enter the hospitality suite at the start of a conference, I feel like I’m finally with my “tribe.” Here’s my takeaways from day one.
After an hour exploring first-hand the highway system of LA, we all got the LA native experience to start the day. The Willows School has model STEAM and library programs, and everything they shared showed that theirs is a culture that fosters collaboration. You know you are in the right place when the headmaster starts the day by saying, “The library is the heart and soul of the school.”
Part One: The Willows School
Maker Spaces and STEAM Curriculum
The three maker teachers shared their own backgrounds and their belief that you can come to the maker world through literacy, science, or the arts and all learn from each other. One of the presenters, Mr Wittenburg, talked about the transformations and “aha moments” that come with agency and ownership in a makerspace. At Willows, they teach maker classes in co-units with teachers as well as doing projects before and after classroom subject lessons. I liked the analogy that the easiest way to do start collaboration is to take two courses and basically build a Venn diagram about what overlaps. The presenters advocated that maker spaces provide opportunities for authentic interdisciplinary learning. Students are motivated to solve problems that they have identified in their work, and they don’t think in terms of specific classes. The librarian is in a unique position to oversee collaboration and resource and to make sure that there is a scope and sequence followed between grades.
To consider: Specific recommendations include Google Drive, Scratch, iMovie, GarageBand, and Makey Makey.
Creating Ever-Evolving, School-Specific Learning Commons
The second session discussed the idea of a learning commons and how libraries are evolving in today’s educational landscape. A team of architects led the session. As learning becomes more project-based and interdisciplinary, and as digital resources become more vital to library collections, libraries don’t have to be limited by physical location. Learning commons are adaptable and may be satellites for the “library” or may replace the traditional library model entirely.
If your school is considering making structural changes and brings in an architect, here’s what to expect. Designers need to be asking school personnel and students a lot of questions. They should also survey the space to see what works and what doesn’t. Then they will talk with the librarian! So, you should visit places (not just schools but also companies and other areas of interest-explore) to figure out what inspires you. The architects will work with you to translate your inspirations and the school’s educational philosophy in the library-learning commons transition. Though it’s obvious, the architects also need to know the budget considerations and work within the school’s budget. This may involve a multi-stage plan.
To consider: How will acoustics work, especially if you have combined group and silent workspaces? Do you have enough electrical outlets? Is the furniture comfortable, and do you want some of the furniture to be mobile so that the space can easily transition uses? Who will be responsible for the management of common spaces?
Part Two: Marlborough School
The Marlborough School is a 7-12 girls’ school located in the beautiful Hancock Park neighborhood. As we lunched underneath the enormous skylight and watched the palms wave outside the window, we learned about their transition from library to Academic Resource Center (ARC). There is a large open central space, stacks, 2 computer labs, and 3 group study rooms. Future plans call for more collaboration space, better sightlines, and a makerspace. The space is already lovely, and I hope I’m able to return one day to see what they’re able to do.
Integrating a Library Program with Information Technology Department
The librarians and technology staff have been one department at Marlborough since 2009. They all attend all team meetings, and thus are crosstrained across departments and have many opportunities for conversation. It keeps the librarian from being limited as the “book person” and helps teachers realize the librarian’s role in teaching both teachers and students. Noise and acoustics were mentioned as a concern, and that’s something to always consider when you have increased collaborative use of the library.
I loved that this presentation included both the student and teacher perspective on the 7th grade Digital Citizenship Project and Tech Tools classes. I highly recommend this conference to anyone, and if you attended, you know that seeing the class lessons and projects on the school’s Haiku site provided plenty of ideas. They are models for providing interactive, student-centered 21st century information literacy lessons!
If I could only say one thing about this panel discussion, it’s that there’s no one path to successful 1:1, but there are a lot of questions you should ask along the way. The panel was both positive and honest, sharing the experiences of their schools with 1:1, which ranged from 3 to 20 years.
Questions to ask:
Do you want to purchase devices or have students bring their own? If the school purchases, will the students be allowed to make their own in-device purchases? What is a succession plan for new devices in future years?
Have you considered a pilot program for one grade or faculty before a school-wide implementation?
Do you have a technology plan for device maintenance? This should include a schedule for replacing devices, funding for this, and staff for tech support.
What is the purpose of the devices? iPads and computers have different functions, particularly as they relate to research, paper writing, and citations.
Will the school offer charging stations, and will the librarian play a role in this? What happens if students forget their devices or if they are being repaired?
Suggestions, Ideas, and Thoughts:
The role of the library might change, but there are many opportunities for mobile integration.
The school may want to require cases. Students have been known to damage devices. 🙂
Keep searching for and trying new apps. New apps appear daily.
It’s fine to have downtime from tech. No one should feel compelled to use technology in every lesson.
Students will be on social media. Educate parents and teachers about appropriate use, and offer monitoring suggestions.
Train teachers so that they are comfortable with devices. If funds permit, the school might want to offer money for teachers to purchase technology programs, apps, or training.
The computer labs will likely see less use, so you may want to consider alternate uses for them.
Students may use their devices to contact teachers all hours of the day and night. Consider boundaries and expectations for these interactions.
Specific recommended programs include Google Drive, Nearpod, TouchCast, Turnitin, Geometer’s Sketchpad, and Artsonia.
Part Three: Central Branch of the LA Public Library
We finished our day with 3 sessions at the downtown art deco masterpiece that is the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. They offer tours daily for visitors, and they offer reading programs, tutoring services, technology classes, STEAM projects, performances, and life skills courses for youth throughout the city. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, it’s worth a visit!
In case you’re wondering what life is like in the day of an AISL conference attendee or what you’ll learn, this is my snapshot for day one. Next up are informal dinners with librarians throughout the city and time for exploring the city. In my case, that means an evening at a superfun used bookstore, The Last Bookstore. Thanks for sharing my notes.
Conference attendees, please feel free to add your own observations from the day in the comments below. And definitely follow #aisl16la on twitter and instagram!