How can teachers leverage new education technology to increase student success? We caught up with teacher librarian Katie McNamara to get the scoop on the new tools that are becoming ever more prevalent in school libraries.
With exciting new education technology emerging every day, school libraries are no longer quiet spaces reserved for reading or learning about the Dewey Decimal System. Today’s school libraries have become hubs for multi-format and blended learning, where students can find not only books, but e-books, audiobooks, computers, and other resources they can use to create more impactful projects and learning experiences. We talked to Katie McNamara, a teacher librarian in Bakersfield, CA, about what role libraries play for students in today’s digital world, and the future of libraries and digital learning.
With over twenty years of teaching experience, McNamara has witnessed the digital revolution in the classroom and library firsthand. “If you’re thinking about becoming a librarian because you like books and quiet, you’re looking into the job about 30 years too late,” she says. While physical books still remain an important part of every library — and many students and teachers prefer them over e-books and audiobooks — McNamara believes it’s the responsibility of the teacher librarian to offer far more than just books on shelves.
Digital and audiobooks have become more prevalent, as has the use of the library for research and tech support. When students come to McNamara with a class project that involves digital elements, it’s her responsibility to know which tools and resources can empower that student to make their project more meaningful — whether that involves making an infographic or discovering an audio clip that can enhance a digital presentation.
As school libraries have widened their horizons to include a variety of learning and research tools, teacher librarians have had to stay on top of new trends and help schools select the tools that actually make sense for students to use. McNamara says AR/VR (augmented reality and virtual reality) software has become incredibly popular, allowing students to design interactive events.
Gone are the days of cutting out magazine and newspaper images to create collages on poster-board. While not every student is an artist or a web designer, with a few simple apps and online tutorials or librarian assistance, students can quickly and easily master new visual technology skills.
Having more connected digital libraries do more than simplify once-tedious assignments like creating bibliographies or conducting research using outdated microfiche. Students who engage with cutting-edge technology as part of their co-curricular work are more connected, and can develop skills that will help them to build their résumés for college and beyond.
McNamara says that offering kids a variety of tools and research platforms in the library is essential not only because they’re learning new skills, but because they’re choosing how they want to learn. “I am all about choice,” says McNamara. “If there’s not choice embedded, it’s probably a bad lesson. I want my kids to have a choice over what they’re learning and how they’re learning. Technology enables that.”
Once students develop new technology skills and interests, they can apply them outside the classroom. High school students can mentor younger students in new technology, honing their teaching and leadership skills. And students who may have a unique interest or want to learn more than what’s offered in their own school can use online platforms to connect and have targeted conversations with other like-minded students not just in their school or district, but across the globe.
As new technology becomes more prevalent, classrooms and libraries will continue to become increasingly connected. McNamara thinks virtual reality, in particular, is an area to watch, noting that her own students are already responding to VR technology. “I think there are going to be many more virtual reality class sessions happening,” she says, “with students participating from all over the world meeting up in the virtual classroom to learn together.” The key elements of effective classrooms, like small class sizes and strong student-teacher relationships, can still be maintained in an online learning environment, McNamara notes, but a virtual learning space allows students to expand their horizons in a way that was never previously possible.
Interested in learning more about how your district’s faculty can master new technology skills and implement them in classrooms and libraries? Hoonuit’s Professional Development solution offers a robust online library of instructional content that covers today’s cutting-edge tools and programs. Click here to learn more.