While many of us in education are used to the pendulum of educational trends and practices swinging back and forth; in this decade the new mode of operation is the pivot. As many of us prepare for the new school year amidst the continued confusion of the health crisis, social upheaval, and financial downturn our normal pre-planning routine once comforting seems insufficient. However; in this new age of anxiety, I see librarians’ honed expertise and intellectual instincts sharpen to focus their skills and passion to connect with students and convey knowledge and learning in all available platforms at their disposal. In the spring we were all thrust into an educational pivot.The summer has afforded a time of reflection more than restoration, but as I move forward this school year my aim is to find poise in the pivot.
The word “pivot” has proliferated through all our news media to describe the most common action in this time of upheaval. Revisiting the meaning and function of the word in our language can give us clues to embracing poise in the pivot. In mechanical terms a pivot is a shaft or pin that supports something as it turns. A fundamental move in basketball, “A pivot is when a player maintains one foot having contact with the ground without changing its position on the floor and utilizes the other foot to rotate their body to improve position…(1)” In business and data organization the pivot table is one of the most powerful functions, “The “pivot” part of a pivot table stems from the fact that you can rotate (or pivot) the data in the table in order to view it from a different perspective. To be clear, you’re not adding to, subtracting from… you’re simply reorganizing the data so you can reveal useful information from it.(2)”
Common to all of these definitions is there are two parts to the pivot. The anchoring, supporting entity and the shift or redirection. I see the foundations of our discipline as librarians as the anchor. The culture of inquiry, intellectual curiosity, and scholarly pursuits grounds us and has stood the test of time while our playful attitude to try new things, tinker with new technologies, and experiment with new programming is our pivot point. In a way we have been perfecting our pivot all along. Think of the average day for a librarian where a combination of the following is the norm: collection development, reader advisory, collaborative teaching, space design, digital curation, web design, student engagement, information literacy, storytime, book clubs etc. In these uncertain times our pivots may be swifter with sharper angles but we can set up systems to insure the smoothest transitions.
Consider some of these pivot moves whether on campus, blended or fully virtual.
As we may be scaling back on our physical collections and limiting physical access due to social distancing recommendations our digital resources and applications continue to offer support to our students and teachers
Promote databases to teachers as supplemental resources– often library databases are only used for independent student research, but many schools in face-to-face settings are minimizing print materials to avoid locker crowding. This is a great time to reach out to your faculty to share that library database articles could be great lesson source material, plus it models information literacy. I have noticed most major database companies have added a “send to google drive” feature. You could show or make a movie for your faculty and make it easy for them to add to their own digital resources. These resources can be seamlessly integrated to a blended or virtual classroom.
Level up your Google Apps usage– so many schools are using Google Apps and students and teachers are comfortable and accomplished with it. Make time to check out new features or try features you have never used before. While Docs, and Slides are the mainstays Google draw is underutilized and has lots of potential for graphic organizers, infographics, digital posters presentations, doodle sketches for understanding. Have you seen the new Jamboard app added to the fleet of apps?It is basically a digital whiteboard that has the same great collaboration features as the rest of Google apps. As an instructor you can use it just like a whiteboard to instruct the whole class, and you can also add sticky notes, and images. You can allow students to also edit and contribute or maybe this is the new group collaboration tool when you cannot have students put heads together at a table- let them collaborate digitally in the classroom or from home. In blended learning this could be a way you capture an in class session and pass it on digitally to those that need it. Have you seen the new Collections app? It is an in-suite curation tool with good search memory. It is like Wakelet, but within the G suite. This could be used for a great lesson on web searching, evaluating, and organizing sources. Also good for any setting live or pixelated. Google news has been around, but I like the “Fact Check” and “Beyond the Headlines” panels on the right if news-media literacy is in your program this could be useful. Google has also added a Podcast app. Some of the teachers at my school have students create podcasts. A great way to teach it is to have them listen to notable and grade-level appropriate podcasts. This is also a nice media format change for online learning to focus on auditory instead of visual information.This app categorizes podcasts and you can subscribe to ones for your own enjoyment. So keep googling google apps.
Sprinkle in some new websites, interactives, and outsider apps like glitter (sparingly, but with sparkle)
Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning. I make a point to try at least two of the resources they share. I try it with my own curriculum. I use my fellow librarians as guinea pigs. Then I consider which teachers, subjects, and projects that would pair well. Over time I have amassed quite a repertoire of tools.
Flipgrid has been featured in many educator resource articles as it is easy to use, makes quick videos manageable and helps community/culture building in a blended or digital setting. If you have any presentation projects and have to shift into digital mode this is an easy transition. This is a great platform for booktalks in the library.
I recently used Genially for a robust digital arcade for Battle of the Books (more details in a future post). It is a great tool for adding interactive elements to websites. I solely used the gamification set they had. It has great professional graphics and ready made templates. These could be a great exit ticket game in a live class. This is an easy way to add engagement in online environments. This does not collect or share data results, so most of the tools are more for student self-check.
The one I want to try this year is Parlay. While I have not field tested it I have explored it this summer. I am drawn to this app because it is actually designed for different settings: live or online. It is a platform for discussions, so programs that use the Harkness model or Socratic seminars could use this to orchestrate, digitize, and data collect during a class discussion. I was impressed with the data a teacher could analyze to democratize the voices in a class.
Don’t forget about some of the golden oldies
Every year about this time I revisit AASL’s Best Apps & Websites for Teaching & Learning Archive. I look back at websites I had wanted to try, but never got a chance to dabble. I also use this time to expand my knowledge on the tried and true platforms and websites I use every year.
Libguides, our industry standard, or the library version of a LMS is the container for all our digital resources. The beginning of the year I take time to review past libguides to edit and tweak for dead links, layout and design improvements or new resources to add. I also try new features from Libwizard or embed some of the above mentioned resources to integrate into a libguide.
Our school continually uses Noodletools as a research platform and citation management tool. I noticed a recent facelift in the program with some layout tweaks. At the beginning of the year I make a point to reach out to new teachers to help integrate into their course if they have not used it before.
Years ago I signed up for Diigo, and I still use it as my own online bookmarker. The other feature that I have also loved is the highlighting and annotating features. As a former reading coach, I still think we need to model and apply print reading strategies to digital texts and this program allows this.
There are so many more, but I have to also be mindful of my own creation of infobesity. Finally, more than any of these tools I really think our ability to possess poise in a pivot is our personal touch with others. I mostly use the above mentions as curricular conversation starters, but more than these are my care and connection with my colleagues. Often listening is more effective than an online offering.
I wish all patience, presence, and poise in the great pivot we are all making this year.