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!).



A #FutureReadyLibs take on #DigCit in the new #AASLStandards

At #METC18 (Midwest Education Technology Conference) I was fortunate to attend several sessions with Dr. Kristen Mattson (@DrKMattson), including a 3-hour preconference session, “Digital Citizenship: Moving Beyond Personal Responsibility.” Dr. Mattson, who started the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group, had a book  published recently by ISTE , Digital Citizenship in Action: Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities. Her sessions really got me thinking about the way we approach digital citizenship with our students, and I decided to see what the new AASL National School Library Standards had to say about the librarian’s role in teaching digital citizenship.

While the phrase “digital citizenship” does not appear by name in the Standards Frameworks, nor is it indexed in the standards book, digital citizenship is definitely a big part of the new school library standards. As is no surprise, the librarian’s role in teaching students to ethically gather and use information is prominent. The key commitment for shared foundation Engage states that learners will “demonstrate safe, legal, and ethical creating and sharing of knowledge products while engaging in a community of practice and an interconnected world.” However, it’s also not surprising that the competencies enumerated in this shared foundation focus much more on the “safe, legal and ethical” use of knowledge (what we traditionally view as digital citizenship) rather than the latter part of the commitment, where we help learners navigate within “a community of practice and an interconnected world.”


In her book and her presentations, Dr. Mattson argues that our digital citizenship lessons need to move beyond “personal responsibility so that [we] can create opportunities for students to become participatory citizens, actively engaging in multiple levels of community and developing relationships based on mutual trust and understanding with others in these spaces.” Dr. Mattson further states, “As citizens, we have a responsibility to give back to the community and to work toward social justice and equity. Digital citizenship curricula should strive to show students possibilities over problems, opportunities over risks and community successes over personal gain.”

This expanded view of our responsibility in teaching our students to be good digital citizens is reflected in two of the other shared foundations in the standards: Include and Collaborate. Consider some of the following competencies and what we as librarians can do to guide our students:

  • II.A.3. Learners contribute to a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.
  • II.C.I. Learners exhibit empathy with and tolerance for diverse ideas by engaging in informed conversation and active debate.
  • III.B.1. Learners participate in personal, social, and intellectual networks by using a variety of communication tools and resources.
  • III.D.2. Learners actively participate with others in learning situations by recognizing learning as a social responsibility.

Dr. Mattson believes that we should take a “participatory citizen” approach where equity and social justice are emphasized as we acknowledge student voice in digital spaces, help students understand their roles in digital communities, give them opportunities to participate respectful discourse, show them how to make meaningful connections through networking, and encourage them to make contributions that matter.

According to the Future Ready Librarians Framework, teaching digital citizenship should be part of the instructional partnerships that we build with other educators, and Dr. Mattson suggests that we help our instructional partners add a layer of digital citizenship to lessons they are already doing. For instance, a free speech discussion in Civics class could include consideration of digital speech, or a history lesson could ask students to consider how the sinking of the Titanic would be different if cell phones always existed.

For more practical ideas about teaching digital citizenship, check out Dr. Mattson’s website, view the #METCTV recording of her session, Beyond the Hashtags: What Can Social Media Do for Social Justice, and definitely consider picking up a copy of her book.



A #FutureReadyLibs take on The New @AASL Standards 6 Common Beliefs

#FutureReadyLibs Take on AASL 6 Common BeliefsThis semester I’ll be taking a deep dive into the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians and School Libraries and exploring how those fit into my role as  Future Ready Librarian.

To begin, I’d like to take a look at the Six Common Beliefs or guiding assumptions upon which the standards are based.

For a great overview of how these updated belief statements compare to the nine Common Beliefs of the previous standards, see Hilda Weisberg’s blog post.

1. The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community.

A key statement within this belief is “By providing access to an array of well-managed resources and technology, school libraries enable academic knowledge to be linked to deeper, personalized learning.” Personalized student learning is at the center of the Future Ready framework, and this belief statement recognizes the library’s role in providing an environment for this learning. A Future Ready Librarian “designs collaborative space” and “curates digital resources” to “empower students as creators.”

I want my library to be the “hub of the school.” Empowering students as creators has been of great importance to me, not only in terms of the resources available at the library for students but in helping this to become an Academy priority. I want my students to be creators and not just consumers of technology, and I advocate for this with the staff in my role facilitating teacher technology goals within their professional learning plans.

2. Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries.

According to this belief, “Qualified school librarians perform interlinked, interdisciplinary, and cross-cutting roles as instructional leaders, program administrators, educators, collaborative partners and information specialists.” This guiding principle recognizes the Future Ready Librarian’s role not only as a collaborative partner in curriculum and instruction but as instructional leader who “facilitates professional learning” and is well positioned to “lead beyond the library.”

Juggling the many roles of the librarian can be a challenge, but I think leading beyond the library is important. I serve as Academy Technology Committee Chair and Future Ready Project Manager. My responsibilities include mentoring staff in their technology professional learning goals and planning Academy technology professional development. I stay current on ed tech by maintaining a strong PLN on Twitter and serving as a Board member and active participant of the Education Technology Association of St. Louis.

3. Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.

This belief stems from the idea that “the purpose of learners’ education is to empower learners to pursue academic and personal success, whether in inquiry, advanced study, emotionally and intellectually rewarding professional work, or community readiness.” This aligns with the mission of The Alliance for Excellent Education, the organization behind the Future Ready movement. The Alliance is dedicated to ensuring that all students “graduate from high school ready for success in college, work and citizenship.” The Future Ready Schools initiative is based upon the idea that implementing “personalized, research-based digital learning strategies” will help students achieve their full potential.

This year our Academy began our back-to-school professional development considering what makes an ideal graduate and what we do as educators to develop this. This began an Academy-wide focus on adopting the essential elements of Project Based Learning. This shift to inquiry-based learning has been a opportunity for me as the information specialist to serve as a resource to staff and students.

4. Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.

Along with utilizing “motivational reading initiatives” and using “story and personal narrative to engage learners,” this guiding principle also recognizes the role of the Future Ready Librarian to ensure “up-to-date technology and digital and print materials that include curated open education resources.” OER is a big push within the Future Ready movement.

Meeting the independent reading needs of my students and fostering their love of reading is a major focus of my library and our LFLA Reads program. I have not been as focused on OER, but I know that the #GoOpen Missouri Education Initiative has some great resources.

5. Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.

A key statement within this belief is “Learners are expected to develop the ability to think clearly, critically, and creatively about their choices [in what they will read, view or hear], rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information.” This relates to the Future Ready Librarians role not only in providing access to information, but in guiding students to be informed, digital citizens. Future Ready Librarians also serve as “advocates for student privacy.”

I am excited to be attending Dr. Kristen Mattson’s METC18 preconference session “Digital Citizenship: Moving Beyond Personal Responsibility,” which will be focused on empowering students as members of digital communities.

6. Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.

According to this guiding principle, “Education leaders and policymakers should strive to provide sufficient  access to up-to-date, robust technology and connectivity. An effective school library plays a crucial role in bridging digital and socioeconomic divides.”  According to the FRL framework, a Future Ready Librarian “ensures equitable digital access.”

At my high poverty, Title I school, this is a huge issue. Since I came to the Academy as Library Media Specialist six years ago, I have been an advocate for improving our infrastructure, technology support, the number of devices and the quality of technology professional development. We now participate in E-Rate, have increased technology support from 10 hours per week to 30, have more devices thanks to switching from laptops to less expensive Chromebooks, have adopted Google Suite for Education, and use the SAMR (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) model as a framework to improve technology integration. Yet, my students still experience barriers to access at home. In a recent survey of our high school students only 37% have a computer at home with reliable internet service, creating a “homework gap.” I am currently working on a partnership for next year that will bring Chromebooks to the library that are available for students to checkout overnight.





Show Me a Maker: Design challenges with @MASLonline award book tie-ins

At the METC Summer Institute: Building STEAM and Creating Spaces, I attended a wonderful presentation by librarians Carolyn Allen (@cmscaia) and Alissa Roades (@AlissaRoades). They shared their Makerspace activities tied to the Show Me State picture book award nominees from last year. For instance, after reading The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs, students did research comparing animal teeth, then built a box that Nathan could use to keep his teeth safe from the Tooth Fairy.

Some advice Carolyn and Alissa shared:

    • Include constraints/requirements and success criteria to help guide students, especially in early maker lessons but don’t show them the example, or you will get copies.
    • Some students struggle with open-endedness and no right answer of maker activities, but hopefully they will get more comfortable with this over time.
    • Coordinate timeline of units so same/similar materials can be used across various grades.
    • Many of the Show Me connection lessons could be adapted to use with multiple grade levels
    • Plan ahead to request donations of materials
    • Before you do the other books consider using resources from Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer (check out the event kit)

I’m excited to adapt this idea for my older students. I think reading an excerpt from the book and then completing a Makerspace activity tied to the book would be a great way to entice students to read the book and to incorporate Makerspace into literacy activities in the library.
To jumpstart this process, I have created a collaborative document where we can share our MASL Maker ideas for the Show Me, Mark Twain, Truman & Gateway nominated books for 2017-2018. I’ve already added some ideas Carolyn and Alissa mentioned in their presentation as well as some of my own brainstorms. Even if you are not a Missouri librarian, I invite you to check out the document, as it may spur some ideas for you to incorporate Makerspace into your promotion of reading.

#FutureReadyLibs #BlogChallenge Week 6 Building Instructional Partnerships

One of the “wedges” of the Future Ready Librarians framework that is probably already a part of most school librarians current practices is building instructional partnerships. When I was taking graduate classes for my library media certification back in the early 2000s, collaborating with teachers was a major focus for us. The “holy grail” of collaboration at that time seemed to be finding ways to co-plan, co-teach and even co-assess a research project. However, I don’t feel this is always practical or even desirable. While making sure students are taught information literacy skills is one of my roles….it is only one of many, and it is not really feasible for me to “push in” to a single class for weeks at a time.

Leveraging instructional partnerships is still very important in my work. In the five years I’ve been in my current library, getting staff “on board” has been key in building a culture of literacy at our school.

I have taken inspiration from Belleville West High School, who were the 2014 grand prize winners of the Follett Challenge. Their video, “Making literacy a school-wide effort” inspired me to pay them a visit. Although I did not adopt the million page challenge at the center of their program, I did come away with lots of ideas I have incorporated. I am really impressed with how they leveraged instructional partners in their building including teachers, administrators and even athletic coaches.

Of course yet another area of instructional partnerships for Future Ready Librarians is in the area of technology integration. Here are some questions to consider: How are you leveraging digital tools and resources to improve your instructional practice? Do you model effective integration across content areas? Do you encourage through collaboration the strategies for encouraging discovery, analysis, creation and presentation?

I’d love to see your answers to these questions and more!

Check out this padlet for some great ideas on the many ways Future Ready Librarians are building instructional partnerships.

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 almost 6,000 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.





#FutureReadyLibs #BlogChallenge Week 5 Ensuring Equitable Access & Advocating for Student Privacy

FB_IMG_1490238380831I have a colleague whose college-aged daughter managed to type an entire research paper on her cell phone from the back seat of their family vehicle while on a road trip. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Yet, I think educators can do students a disservice by assuming that a cell phone in one’s pocket is all that is needed to ensure equitable access to digital resources.

Because I do not have wifi at home, I know from first-hand experience how limiting it can be to try to accomplish some academic tasks from a mobile device. While there are many things I can do with my phone, I find a lot things have to wait until I can get to work. I also run into issues with data limits and how much storage space I have available on my cell phone. I find I often have to delete a couple of apps in order to make room download a new one.

Even when we allow students to take home 1:1 devices such as Chromebooks or iPads, we cannot assume that wifi is easily accessible for the student. There may not be wifi access within safe walking distance for the student, and/or they may not have an adult available to take them somewhere to use the device.

Another related issue is that educators sometimes assume that their students being “tech savvy” means that they can apply that tech savvy to academic settings.

In a 2014 article from the New York Times, Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level, the author finds disparities based on income level, but also makes the point that in general “teachers often assumed that because adolescents seemed so comfortable with technology that they actually knew how to use it in an academic context…But we can’t confuse that kind of savviness with critical evaluative skills.”

I have found we need to be much more explicit in teaching information literacy, digital citizenship and safety/privacy issues. For a great resource on teaching these issues, check out Shannon Miller’s webinar from earlier this month.

For a thoughtful examination of student privacy issues, check out Susan Hefley’s blog post on Advocating for Student Privacy, which is one of the roles of a Future Ready Librarian.

How does your district support the library program to ensure students have access to the resources, human and physical, they need to optimize their learning? Does your program utilize digital tools to support and promote equitable access to information and resources through your library media program? What student privacy policies are currently in place in your district? Is everyone in the district current on those policies? Are there opportunities for you to provide leadership in building broader understanding and awareness of those policies? How does the librarian and the library program promote and support digital citizenship?

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 almost 6,000 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.

#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.