A Librarian's Guide to Making the Most of Technology in Classrooms
Melissa Techman is a librarian who knows her tech. And she’s willing to share.
The Broadus Wood Elementary School’s librarian expands her reach beyond her home district in Virginia. She is on Twitter, Diigo, Symbaloo and Pinterest as mtechman, sharing tech tips and tools for educators.
Techman first used technology in her library when she taught an advanced reading group of second-graders.
“I realized very quickly the students didn’t want to have everyone read the same book and then answer canned questions,” she said.
So, she created a wiki that the students could work with and had them build a glossary to go with a graphic novel that was a bit of a stretch for them.
When she saw how much fun the kids had, Techman knew she was on to something.
“I think that it is kind of past time for teachers to be trying this stuff because we owe it to our students to be connected learners,” Techman said. It’s the future they live in.
Here are some of Techman’s tips for using technology well in the classroom and library, as well as building a pro-tech constituency among parents and learners.
Know How the Tool Fits with the Lesson
The biggest thing, Techman said, is to make sure the lesson and the tool fit together.
“You can’t just use something because you like it,” she said. You have to know where it fits with the content of a lesson.
Techman often finds students in the library are getting more than one lesson when the tool and the content fit well together.
For instance, she had students learning about different species use blogging software to share their thoughts on the issues. The lesson focused on capstone species, but the class also worked on reading comprehension, writing and cyber smarts.
Make Parent Volunteers Your Allies
Techman relies on parent volunteers. She’ll often start by having them help check out books or restack the shelves.
Then the tech creep begins. She’ll have them “just help out” with an assignment or two, empowering them to see that technology is easy and important.
“I want to bring life into the library. I want people to see the real-world connections. I want my students to see the library as part of the world,” she said.
This helps reinforce lessons at home, shows parents what online lessons are important and builds important allies of cyber education outside of the classroom.
“After awhile, I’ll ask the parents if they want to sign up for an email list that I can send out an alert if something happens,” she said. Whenever there are discussions about technology education or library funding, she can send out a note.
“It’s a powerful,” Techman said, “A surprisingly small amount of interested citizens can do something.” Her network lobbied against proposed library cuts at the state level, for example.
Master the Sharing Economy
The library is still about research, but for Techman the big lesson of the Internet is citation. Not those Chicago-Style footnotes, but just noting that the student got an image or a sentence from another source.
“I don’t really care how they form those citations,” Techman said. “If they don’t get that habit early on of stopping to think ‘I’m not the author of this,’ they won’t get in the habit.”
When technology makes it easier than ever to purposefully or accidentally lift someone else’s work, acknowledgement is more important than ever.
Teach ‘Cyber Civility’ Every Time
Online safety and manners are important. But all too often, they fall to the wayside.
“The fact of the matter is that teachers think that parents are teaching it, and parents think that teachers are,” Techman said.
She wraps important lessons into every use of tech tools. When students enter a sharing space where they use their real names, Techman reminds them not to share too much information and to be kind because their reputations are on the line online, too.
“It’s not just a world full of gadgets. It’s a world where you need to be your best self online. We have to support them in being connected learners,” Techman said.