Hey, #FutureReadyLibs, new #AASLstandards show #makerspace not a fad

Copy of #FutureReadyLibs Take on AASL MakerspaceIf you’ve been in education as long as me (Um…wow…20+ years), you’ve surely seen educational trends come and go and watched the pendulum swing on what are considered educational priorities. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some librarians are sitting back and waiting to see if the library makerspace trend is going to go out of style.

For much of my English teaching career (before I became a librarian), reading and writing across the curriculum was all the rage, and my expertise in these areas was appreciated by teachers across the content areas, who were all of the sudden expected to be teachers of reading and writing on top of their own content. Yet, the pendulum has swung in recent years, and now STEM and STEAM are everything. (Those smarties in Art got in on the acronym action early, and now we are left to awkwardly try to slip in an R for reading, to make it STREAM,).

If you aren’t teaching “design thinking” or “novel engineering,” you are behind the times, dear literacy-loving friends. And, while I do believe Humanities will get their due again eventually (at least I hope so– especially given the way modern life seems to resemble more and more those dystopian novels that fly off the shelves in my library), I have to tell you–having taken a deep dive into the new AASL Standards this semester–I truly believe that this new “makerspace mindset” is not just a passing fad.

If you don’t believe me, then just take a look at these competencies from the shared foundation, Explore:

  • V.B.1. Learners construct new knowledge by problem solving through cycles of design, implementation, and reflection.
  • V.B.2. Learners construct new knowledge by persisting through self-directed pursuits by tinkering and making.
  • V.C.3. Learners engage with the learning community by collaboratively identifying innovative solutions to a challenge or problem.
  • V.D.1. Learners develop through experience and reflection by iteratively responding to challenges.

While Explore, with its key commitment to “discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection,” encompasses more than just making, it is pretty clear that the language in this shared foundation encourages it. According to Chapter 9 of the new standards book, learners benefit from “opportunities to cultivate creative pursuits by making and experimenting with hands-on activities within the library space” (emphasis mine), and they advance “by tackling challenges that build skill through multiple opportunities to engage in problem-solving and critical-thinking processes.”

I’ll admit right now, I have been slow to get on board with incorporating makerspace in my library and not because I think it’s going to go out of style. Because I serve a student population that is behind in reading (75% of our incoming 6th graders read 2-3 grade levels below where they should be), the focus of my middle school library program is always going to be on reading. But, I also realize that if I do not provide opportunities to make and iterate, my high-poverty students may not be exposed to it elsewhere.

This is why an METC STEAM Summer Institute session on makerspace activities tied to state-award nominated picture books I attended last summer was so appealing to me. The idea of tying the makerspace to literacy seemed like the perfect fit. I blogged about that session here, and I set out this school year to figure out how I could take the idea and make it work for my secondary students.


One of elementary librarian, Carolyn Allen’s terrific ideas that inspired me last summer.

My first thought was to book talk a Truman or Gateway book, read a quick excerpt and then have the students complete a related makerspace activity during their regularly scheduled library visits. Yet, incorporating anything but the simplest, quickest makerspace activities turned out to be hard to manage given the limited time I see secondary students, so I had to get a little more creative and reach out to teaching partners who could collaborate.

As it turns out, our middle school science teachers were looking for enrichment activities for their intervention time, and they were more than willing to have me come in and share about an award book. Then, I could leave, and they took care of the related STEM activity. We were able to incorporate maker activities this way, and it also ended up leading to a broader STEM-Literacy partnership.  For instance, I read an excerpt from Red Queen to 6th grade science students at the start of a unit on blood types, which incorporated inquiry as well as a more traditional lab. The collaboration has me so excited, that I am thinking about reaching out to other departments, like art, social studies and math!

red queen

6th graders learn about real blood types and read about red & silver bloods.

Another idea we have in the works, is putting together some Family STEM-Literacy take-home kits, where we’ll send home two copies of the award book, along with an accompanying nonfiction title, discussion guides and maker activities and materials. We’re writing a grant this month in hopes of funding this idea and our continued partnership!


I really hope we can fund these kits!

For my high schoolers, I decided to focus on Gina Seymour-inspired “makercare” activities, where the projects were tied to community service. I introduced this through my monthly Teen Library Council lunch meetings, and then students could come in during their free time to participate in making  with the added incentive of getting to go on a field trip to deliver the items we made that were meant for outside the school. Here is a link to the Donor’s Choose project I did to fund the supplies for this idea.


An easy “makercare” project you can do in school.


So, while there are a lot of Future Ready Librarians who are trendier than me and a lot farther along when it comes to their library makerspaces, I hope you find a little inspiration here. Plus, I hope you will join in on these collaborative documents (MASL Makers 2017-2018 & MASL Makers 2018-2019) where we are sharing our maker ideas for the MASL award-nominated books (even if you are not from Missouri!).



#FutureReadyLibs #BlogChallenge Week 4 Students as Creators #stuchoice

FB_IMG_1490238380831I want my students to be creators of digital content, not just consumers. Empowering Students as Creators is an important tenet of the Future Ready Librarians framework.

Unfortunately, according to “What a Decade of Education Research Tells Us About Technology in the Hands of Underserved Students” too often schools are placing digital devices in the hands of poor students for remediation rather than creation.

Some key findings in the article:

“Students who are black, Hispanic, or low-income are more likely to use computers for drill-and-practice… [white] students are more likely to use computers for simulations or authentic applications.”

“When we only use edtech for basic skills with underserved students—but use it in much more meaningful ways with more privileged students—we are driving the boundaries of the digital divide even farther apart, not closing it.”

“Using digital tools solely for drill-and-practice activities and remediation can and often does negatively affect student achievement, not to mention engagement, motivation, and self-esteem.”

So, what’s a Future Ready Librarian to do? Check out Linda Doughtery’s blog post for some great ideas. To me, the key is giving students voice and choice when it comes to how they show their learning. Teachers can be somewhat reticent about giving up control like this sometimes, especially if they are afraid they won’t be able to help students who struggle to master the digital tools. But, that is the beauty of giving lots of options; if one creation tool is not working for a particular student, they are empowered to figure it out for themselves or choose something else. The tools students use are going to change over time anyway. Being able to use resources such as help, tutorials, how-to videos on Youtube or just tinkering until you figure it out are important skills that will serve students well in the long run.

My go-to resource for learning about new digital creation tools is Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers. Check out this great podcast Vicki Davis did with him recently: RICHARD BYRNE’S MOST EXCITING EDTECH TOOLS.

So, how will you get your students creating? Do you have spaces for students to create digital products documenting their learning? What types of library instruction do you use to promote critical thinking? How does your program support connections to the community? What do you include in your program to support real-world problem solving by students?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions and more.

Please join in on the conversations by posting your own blog responses and by joining the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group, where a new weekly blog challenge will be posted every Wed. through May 24.

Started by Dr. Kristen Mattson, the FRL Facebook group has over 4,500 members and growing and “seeks to support K-12 Future Ready Librarians as they support administrators, teachers, staff and students in Future Ready Schools.” You can also join in the conversation on Twitter through the hashtag #FutureReadyLibs and subscribe to/join my FutureReadyLibs Twitter list.