My work as a K-8 school librarian has convinced me of two facts. First, everyone learns differently. Two, there are many uses for a library. If we don’t honor both facts, we will only serve a fraction of our students. According to Sir Ken Robinson (2010), education can and should be personalized to the people we are teaching. Education that is built on conformity dislocates people from their natural talents, leading to disenchantment and ultimately depleting our future society of the variety of skills needed to thrive. Rather than conform to the traditional school library model (room full of books), the school library can be an exciting, revolutionary source of activity that supports and drives innovation. According to Loertscher, what is needed to reach into classrooms and get kids’ attention is a total flip in perspective. Rather than maintaining a room full of books, the library can function as a learning commons that is both virtual and physical where the entire school community can come together to create, inspire, share, and showcase (2008). The goal, in other words, is to create and curate a participatory library.
Excited to test this participatory library model in my school, I launched the Library Dream Design, a multi-week, project-based exploration for fifth grade. After a brief introduction in which I presented innovative library designs from around the world (many of which involved teen input), the students formed teams and began brainstorming. They came up with outlandish ideas like marshmallow reading rooms, books delivered by drones, and pet libraries. Next, the teams created an Idea Board – a Google doc where they could gather representations and support for their ideas. Anything sourced online was documented or they could make their own representations. Some designed in MineCraft, others drew blueprints on paper, and one team created a marshmallow model. The final step was to compile all their ideas into a Google slideshow, which they presented to the rest of the class (the hypothetical funders).
The project was a huge success on many levels, not least of which because it was very fun. The most important aspect for me was that this activity engaged library lovers and non-users equally. Students who appeared bored during regular library programming and rarely used the library outside of class were fired up to share their ideas. Students who were normally disengaged showed great leadership. By inviting them to build on their diverse and natural talents, we created a setting where everyone could thrive.
The exhilarance of the Dream Library Design project inspired me to explore more ways to actively engage students in our school library. I have been a long-time fan of podcasts and have recently read some exciting articles about creating podcast programs in libraries. With this Emerging Technology Plan, I will outline a project-based lesson plan, which can be set into motion as a mult-week Podcasting unit. Podcasts can serve many purposes in a school library. First of all, podcasts can be a valuable source of information for research and personal interest. Recently the fourth grade teacher asked me to build a libguide of social studies resources. She specifically asked for video and audio sources for students who interact better with these formats than traditional text. Podcasts, which appeal to multiple literacies, can be a powerful information source for students who might otherwise lose confidence due to reading differences. Second, learning to make podcasts offers an opportunity to explore technology and information gathering in a creative, social way. Third, podcasts can be shared by and archived in the library via our website and social media, creating a student-generated collection and a direct link to our community. Fourth, project-based experiences provide insight into the interests and personalities of our student patrons, allowing us to better meet their needs. Finally, a podcasting program gives the library an outlet to connect with the rest of our school community. Interested teachers can be involved in the project by offering their time, expertise, or resources. The project gives the library visibility in the school and draws the school community in. The enthusiasm buzzing around a project like this is infectious.
Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:
- Introduce podcasts as an inspiring and legitimate format for research and entertainment.
- Engage the diverse and natural talents of fifth grade students to build a thriving program.
- Build visibility of the library and generate buy-in from the school community.
- Instill confidence and build project skills for soon-to-be middle schoolers.
- Create a community-generated podcast collection.
- Achieve a deeper understanding of patron interests and personalities in order to grow a responsive, participatory library.
- Present the school library as a hive of innovation and activity that everyone wants to be a part of.
Description of Community:
The Podcasting unit will be designed for fifth grade students. During their last year in elementary school, fifth graders are honing the research and project skills they will need in middle school and beyond. As instructors, one goal is to empower students to become independent thinkers and to have the confidence and direction to self-motivate. Project-based experiences like creating podcasts offer a platform to practice these skills in a creative, active setting. As tweens, fifth graders are beginning to think about what is possible, so activities that encourage exploration and discovery support their burgeoning enthusiasm. Furthermore, tweens’ prefered method of information seeking is social with face-to-face interactions at the top of the list. The Podcasting unit is designed to support social interaction by working on teams, conducting interviews, and working closely with the librarians. Tweens are more likely to seek help from adults when they are engaged in something that excites and interests them, rather than a forced topic that has been assigned.
The staff is made up of dedicated, open-minded teachers and specialists who enjoy collaborating. The school encourages project-based learning experiences and curates independent thinking from an early age. This is an ideal setting to try new programs, especially ones that support classroom learning.
Action Brief Statement:
Convince students that by making podcasts they will have fun, gain skills, and make connections, which will make the library a positive place because they will have a voice.
Convince the school community that the library is an innovative hub of activity that reinforces and supports classroom learning through project-based experiences that allow every student to thrive.
Convince fellow school librarians that making podcasts is a way to reach out to our community and better understand the interests and personalities of our patrons so we can grow a responsive, participatory program.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:
American Association of School Librarians. (n.d.). AASL standard framework for learners. Retrieved from https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/AASL-Standards-Framework-for-Learners-pamphlet.pdf
ALA. (2008). Teens podcasting @ your library. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/yalsa/sites/ala.org.yalsa/files/content/teentechweek/ttw08/resourcesabcd/techguide_podcst.pdf
Friedman, L. (2009). Sound Unwound. Public Services Quarterly, 5(3), 212-216.
King, D. L. (2018). Chapter 3: Practical Ways to Incorporate New Technology Trends. Library Technology Reports, 54(2), 24–29. Retrieved from http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=129343599&site=ehost-live&scope=site
Loertscher, D. (2008). Flip this library: School libraries need a revolution. Retrieved frm https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Chkr_p_55AAcqag5ehGqQYT-eCfyA6k-eir37ftZwmw/edit
Programminglibrarian.org. (n.d.). StoryCorps@your library: A toolkit for success. Retrieved from http://www.programminglibrarian.org/storycorps/files/SCL_DIY_Guide_2014.pdf
Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution!. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution
Rodgers, L. (2018). Time for podcasts. Retreived from https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=prime-time-podcasts
Stephens, M. (March 2, 2010). The hpyerlinked school library: Engage, explore, celebrate [blog post]. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/
TechTeacherNate. (November 29, 2017). Making a podcast in iMovie (audio only) [Youtube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVLPMIqX-JY
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:
The following excerpt describes the school’s goals and philosophy for its library and technology programs.
Librarians design project-based instructional experiences that promote curiosity and encourage collaboration. By engaging the diverse and natural talents of our students, we ensure they make a meaningful and personal connection with the resources that best fit their information needs. Assessing the outcomes of these participatory projects allows librarians to curate a user-focus library program that is responsive and engaging.
The above paragraph, which I was asked to draft for the school’s accreditation document, is based on principles of the participatory library combined with revolutionary ideas of education. In his blog post The Hyperlinked School Library, Michael Stephens writes that technology is not longer an extra in education (2010). Young people integrate technology into their lives as seamlessly as we adults once used No. 2 pencils. Technology formats like podcasts are the modern tools for interacting with and understanding the material taught in school. More importantly, creative technology like podcasts allow students to deeply explore subjects on their own terms, rather than conform to traditionally rigid means of instruction (Robinson, 2010). The students are the driving force behind the content, production, and promotion (ALA, 2008), which adds meaning and value to the experience. As Stephens points out, there are six characteristics that are key to a successful learning experience: curiosity; exploration; transparency and openness; creativity; flexibility; and play (2010). Podcasting meets all these criteria.
Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:
The podcasting project will require no additional funding from students or the school.
The school provides each fifth grader with a Chrome Book, which can be used to access all technology needed for this project including the library website, Google docs, Google classroom, and iMovie.
Staff is invited to opt in as interview subjects, which will require donated time.
Action Steps & Timeline:
The Podcasting project will unfold as a unit that takes place during the forty-minute weekly library class.
Week 1: Introducing Podcasts
Prepare: Build a cache of podcasts for students to peruse. Linda Rodger’s article Time for Podcasts offers a great list to start with. Post the list on Google Classroom or, better yet, make the links available on your library website. My school uses LibGuides to build web-based guides. They are flexible and always available to students. You can include suggestions for podcatchers like Sticher or iTunes.
Participatory: Collaborate with classroom teachers by finding out what topics students need sources for (King, 2018). Include podcasts that support classroom projects. This helps erase the walls of the library and contributes to the concept of library as hub of information and innovation.
In class: Introduce students to the concept of podcasting. Show the guide you created and explain that many podcasts can be used as a source for research and school projects as well as entertainment. “Book talk” great podcasts.
Participatory: Invite students to recommend their favorite podcasts and add them to the cache.
Engagement: Give students time to explore the cache of podcasts. Some students will find a quiet spot to themselves while others will prefer to explore the podcasts in groups.
Week 2: Scripting a Podcast
Prepare: Determine a series topic. This could be highlighting projects students are doing in science; family history; exploring the neighborhood of the school. For the sake of this plan, the topic will be Stories from the School Community and the format will be interviews. Add examples to your LibGuide or website so students will have examples. You may also wish to add some resources on conducting good interviews. Storycorps offers a great toolkit including resources like Great Questions for interviews.
Create a blanket policy that anyone who participates in the program agrees to share their picture, voice, etc. Notify parents that their students’ contributions may be shared and provide an opt-out form for those who don’t wish for their child to participate (Rodgers, 2018). In many cases, the school has already covered this.
Participatory: Link the podcasting topic with the school community, creating an outreach element. It could relate to a unit students are studying in social studies or could be a mission to learn more about staff members other than teachers (maintenance crew members, nurses, aides, language specialists, etc.).
Participatory: Ahead of time, ask staff to opt in to the project by volunteering to be interview subjects. If interview subjects are available during library class time, this gives them an opportunity to directly participate in the library, which will hopefully lead to inspiration and future collaboration.
In class: Introduce the podcast-making project. Explain the timeline, topic, and procedure. Present a couple episodes of Story Corps as an example of the Stories from the School Community topic and provide some information about interviewing. Divide the class into teams. Ask each student to choose a member of the school community from the list of interview subjects. Give students class time to write interview questions and plan. They can work collaboratively via Google docs, which can also be submitted to you on Google Classroom.
Students will email their interview subject to set up a time for the interview. Ideally, the time will be during library class hours but fifth graders do have opportunities throughout the school day to pursue independent projects.
Week 3: Playing with Technology
Prepare: Add an iMovie tutorial to the project page or LibGuide. This YouTube video is geared toward students and explains how to make a podcast using iMovie.
In class: Invite the technology specialist to introduce iMovie to students and explain how they can use the software to make podcasts.
Students will polish their interview questions and set up their recording software. They can practice interviews on one another.
Engagement: Give students time to play with iMovie, record, edit, add music, just mess around. In my experience, 21st Century learners learn best by doing. Let them explore, socialize, share, and ask questions as needed.
Week 4: Record the Interview and/or edit
In class: If interview subjects are available during class time, students may use this time to conduct and record their interviews. If interviews were done outside of class time, students may begin to edit their podcasts.
Week 5: Editing continued
In class: Finish editing and submit podcasts via Google Classroom
Week 6: Presentation
Prepare: Compile the podcasts and post on the library webpage.
In class: Serve popcorn and premier the podcasts.
Participatory: Invite interview subjects to attend the screening.
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:
The project will involve the library staff with assistance from the school technology specialist. Although the project can be curated by the librarian and assistant librarian during library class time, classroom and specialist teachers are encouraged to participate as interview subjects. They may do this during library class time or prep time. Some may choose to incorporate the project into their classroom curriculum. For example, a podcast series could coincide with units on biographies, historical events, science concepts, or social change makers. As part of their studies, students could produce a podcast on one aspect of the topic, then we would compile the podcasts into a series produced and shared via the library. In this way, the experience is documented in a way that can be shared with future students. Collaborating with classroom teachers adds support for the project, creates staff buy-in for the library, and increases the relevance of the experience.
Training for this Technology or Service:
Fifth graders will receive training on the interview process and recording and editing techniques. Training for technology like podcasting is free and easy with resources and toolkits produced by fellow librarians and producers. In the case of my school, I gained a lot of insight from our technology specialist, who had already experimented with podcasting. He suggested tools and tricks.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:
As noted above, buy-in from classroom teachers will solidify the relevance of the project and help take it to the next level. Reach out to teachers and find out where they could use support, then make that the topic for the podcast series. For example, the fifth graders study memoirs. Students can share stories from their own life or collect stories from others to build a Memoir podcast series. Connecting library activities to classroom curriculum supports teachers, creates awareness of the library as an integrative hub, and promotes the project beyond the walls of the library.
Once the podcasts have been created, the series can be shared on the classroom webpages as well as archived on the library website. The library also has Facebook and Twitter accounts, which can be used to promote the project.
I like the question, “What stories are you envisioning telling about this”. Stories are built into the fabric of podcasting. By giving students the opportunity to pursue their interests, choose their subjects, and write their own questions, librarians get a rare glimpse inside their diverse realities. Seeing projects like podcasting unfold allows us to understand our patrons’ needs, interests, and personalities in a deeper way then simply asking them to fill out a questionnaire. For those who choose not to engage in the library in a traditional way, projects that reach out and enchant them on a different level invites participation. When we offer choices, we will always be surprised.
I would evaluate the project using the following questions:
Does the project promote the library as a hub of innovation and collaboration that entices the school community to collaborate?
- Does podcasting invite students to use their diverse and natural talents in a project-based experience?
- Does podcasting help librarians better understand the needs and interests of students?
- Does podcasting produce community-generated content for the library collection?
- Did students have fun and do they want more?
The following graphic was designed by the American Association of School Librarians. The words “shared foundations” and “domains” are explained through a lengthy and somewhat elusive document but the graphic alone evokes meaning for me. I see the outer circle as the library and the inner circle as the patron experience. I disregard the center because I feel obsessing over standardized competencies distracts from the humanization of the library. The words presented in the outer two circles create a mantra for envisioning an ever-expanding, participatory library.
Conclusion: The Future
Podcasting is a flexible technology trend that can grow with the library. It actually allows the library to expand beyond the walls – librarians can collaborate with teachers to document instructional experiences and student work. Individual projects can be archived or an ongoing series can be created and maintained as part of a library program. Just as the llibrary runs the fourth and fifth grade book club, it could sponsor a podcasting club. Ideally this would operate in conjunction with another staff member or department. Emerging technology like podcasting is an opportunity for the library to evolve into an innovative school hub that is central to experiential learning and invites participation from every student.